Artificial Turf Litigation
Synthetic Turf Lawsuits
Defective playing fields & personal injury claims
Artificial Turf Litigation
Between the early 2000’s and 2012, FieldTurf, the leading manufacturer and seller of synthetic grass turf – knowingly sold synthetic grass turf fields containing a defective monofilament fiber (a component used in synthetic turf fields to form the grass-like fronds) (the “Evolution Fiber”) to hundreds of U.S. consumers.
The turf fields were sold under the various brand names, including “FieldTurf,” “Durspine,” “Duraspine Pro,” “Prestige,” “Evolution,” “Tarkett,” and “FieldTurf Tarkett” (herein after referred to collectively as, “Artificial Turf Fields”).
The Artificial Turf Fields were and are inherently defective due to the inferior and defective Evolution Fiber, a defect that also renders the long-term durability and promised performance of the fields impossible.
Despite knowing that the Artificial Turf Fields were defective, FieldTurf marketed and sold its defective product with representations that they would last for more than ten years, and would not prematurely degrade.
In addition, as if this were not enough, FieldTurf falsely represented that it used 10 pounds of infill – a mixture of sand and rubber granules – per square foot of the product when, in fact, FieldTurf used far less than 10 pounds per square foot of infill in the turf that it installed. But FieldTurf nonetheless their customers for the materials and labor associated with the infill that they did not receive. The under-filling further increased the rate of premature degradation. Further, FieldTurf knew that providing less than 10 pounds of infill per square foot created a harder surface that is more prone to cause serious injuries to athletes than a properly filled surface. The under-filling increased the risk of, among other things, concussions, and injuries to shoulders and knees.
Finally, FieldTurf falsely claimed that the safety studies cited in its marketing materials to show that the Artificial Turf Fields were safer than natural grass were “independent.” In truth, the studies were funded by FieldTurf.
FieldTurf is a leading manufacturer and seller of synthetic grass turf, used in athletic fields, landscaping projects, golf courses, and more. FieldTurf currently controls 85% of the United States market for synthetic turf fields. FieldTurf’s principal consumers are the schools, towns, and local sports organizations across the country that buy and install FieldTurf’s synthetic grass turf based on representations, and the reasonable belief, that it will outlast and outperform real grass turf and FieldTurf’s competitors’ synthetic grass, thereby saving them precious money over the duration of a field’s lifespan.
Indeed, FieldTurf’s targeted marketing and advertising was specifically designed to establish that belief. Its website fronts a “proven” reputation of trustworthiness and assures schools, towns, local sports organizations, and others that they will indeed see a return on their substantial investment because FieldTurf’s product lasts longer and performs better than any other synthetic turf available. FieldTurf made these same promises regarding the defective Artificial Turf Fields at issue here. FieldTurf sold its Artificial Turf Fields to Plaintiff and hundreds of other U.S. consumers from 2005 to 2012, all the while knowingly and actively concealing the damning truth: its purportedly “revolutionary” Artificial Turf Fields were made with a defective component material that nullified those representations and promises.
From 2005 through 2012, FieldTurf exclusively purchased, and manufactured its Artificial Turf Fields with the Evolution Fiber supplied by Mattex Leisure Industries (“Mattex”), an entity later acquired by TenCate Thiolon Middle East, LLC (“TenCate”).
Even before FieldTurf entered into its first exclusive supply agreement with Mattex in November 2005, FieldTurf employees were aware that the Evolution Fiber was not properly functioning, not meeting the durability and performance qualities FieldTurf itself tested for, and questioned whether it was the right fiber to use in FieldTurf’s product.
Nevertheless, in 2005 FieldTurf aggressively launched a national marketing campaign that touted its Artificial Turf Fields’ durability and performance, based on the Evolution Fiber. It claimed the Artificial Turf Fields offered extreme performance, unmatched durability, and a ten-plus year lifespan with low maintenance and the potential to save millions of dollars in back-end costs. Consumers, including schools, towns, local sporting organizations, and others, relied on those representations and paid high premiums when purchasing the Artificial Turf Fields as a result. And sales skyrocketed.
By 2006, FieldTurf had irrefutable evidence that its Artificial Turf Fields were not living up to its claims. In fact, it knew that fields it installed in 2005 and 2006 had already begun to rapidly deteriorate. Internal company documents demonstrate that officials at FieldTurf considered the deterioration to be a crisis that could cost the company hundreds of millions in warranty claims and replacements. Between 2006 and the time in 2012 when FieldTurf finally discontinued selling the Artificial Turf Fields, the evidence mounted that the fields could not maintain performance or durability anywhere close to the ten-plus years promised.
In 2010, FieldTurf’s own testing confirmed that the premature deterioration of its Artificial Turf Fields was due to the inferior chemical composition of the Evolution Fiber that was used to manufacture the fields.
Rather than inform past or potential purchasers of the defective Evolution Fiber and the threat of premature deterioration of the Artificial Turf Fields, at any point in time, FieldTurf simply leaned into its marketing campaigns, pushing durability, safety, performance, and a ten-plus year lifespan, while pocketing the revenue from its sale of Artificial Turf Fields that it knew contained the defective Evolution Fiber.
FieldTurf intentionally and knowingly misled consumers through outright deception and the omission of material facts that, if known by consumers, would have assuredly had a significant impact on its bottom line. Indeed, FieldTurf’s fraud had a devastating negative impact on the bottom line of the Plaintiff and other consumers that spent upwards of a combined $570 million to purchase a product that was promised to have a ten-plus year lifespan.
In December 2016, NJ Advance Media finally began to expose FieldTurf’s fraudulent scheme, publishing the results and details of an exhaustive six-month investigation into FieldTurf and the prematurely deteriorating Artificial Turf Fields.
FieldTurf’s consumers are left dealing with the fall out of their defective Artificial Turf Fields. Plaintiff has filed this class action lawsuit to mitigate that fall out and restore consumers by seeking all legal and equitable relief available under applicable statutory and common law.
FieldTurf touts itself as the “world leader in artificial turf.” According to NJ Advance Media, “the research group IBIS World said last year that the highly competitive U.S. artificial turf installation industry generates about $1.2 billion annually, and that Field Turf and its parent company, Tarkett, hold the largest market share.” As of the filing of this Complaint, FieldTurf has installed over 7,000 synthetic sports fields globally, including 1,428 in the United States between 2005 and 2012 alone, 164 of which are installed in New Jersey.
Prominently displayed on the banner page of FieldTurf’s website is FieldTurf’s claim that it is the most trusted brand in the industry ostensibly due to its Artificial Turf Fields’ combination of safety, performance, and durability:
When it comes to artificial turf sports fields, FieldTurf is the most trusted brand in the industry. Whether its football, soccer, baseball or any other sport, our turf fields will provide your athletes with the safety and performance they need to perform at their best, while giving field owners the durability they want to maximize the value of their investment.
Indeed, FieldTurf’s marketing materials claim that two “independent” scientific studies show that Artificial Turf Fields are “safer than natural grass.”
Neither of these studies, however, is “independent.”
Both were funded by FieldTurf.
Moreover, studies that are, in fact, free of industry bias have reached a different conclusion regarding the safety of FieldTurf as compared to natural grass.
The first study cited in FieldTurf’s marketing materials, “Incidence, Causes, and Severity of High School Football Injuries On FieldTurf Versus Natural Grass,” was authored by Bill S. Barnhill, M.D., and Michael C. Meyers, Ph.D. and published in August 2004 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine (hereinafter referred to as the “2004 Study”).
The second study cited in FieldTurf’s marketing materials, “Incidence, Mechanisms, and Severity of Game-Related College Football Injuries on FieldTurf Versus Natural Grass – a 3-Year Prospective Study,” was authored solely by Michael C. Meyers, Ph.D. and published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2010 (hereinafter the “2010 Study”).
In 2013, Dr. John Orchard published a paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine alleging that both the 2004 Study and the 2010 Study were funded by FieldTurf and, therefore, were not “independent.”
In that same article, Dr. Orchard cites several studies that are “independent of industry funding,” including one that “[e]xamined anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and other lower limb injury rates in the NFL on FieldTurf compared to natural grass; the rate on FieldTurf were significantly higher.”
FieldTurf further holds itself out as the “company that changed the industry,” whose reach extends not only to major sports teams, but to municipalities, schools, like Plaintiff, and other small organizations across the United States:
Cities and schools have been benefitting from our ability to provide the very best value for the short and long term, allowing organizations at all levels to be able to forecast the amount of money they will save by installing FieldTurf, the safe, long-lasting and high performing artificial turf system.
While FieldTurf admits that its synthetic grass fields come at a high price premium on the front end, it justifies those prices with claims that consumers will save money over the life of the product: “The upfront cost is higher, but the cost savings over time make it a much more financially-sound decision.”
FieldTurf falsely made these same claims from 2005 through 2012 regarding the Artificial Turf Fields at issue in this Complaint, while omitting material facts that directly precluded any possibility consumers would indeed receive the promised return on their investment.
In fact, FieldTurf established its dominance in the synthetic grass fields market, in terms of both aggregate sales dollars and the number fields installed, on the backs of defrauded tax payers and consumers. Indeed, to this day FieldTurf boasts that it has “more fields that have lasted 10, 11, 12 or even 13 years than all than all of [their] competitors combined,” but nowhere does it disclose that those fields were and are inherently defective due to an inferior and defective component material that renders the long-term durability and promised performance of those fields impossible. Instead, FieldTurf maintains that it “has proven to be the most durable and longest-lasting synthetic turf system in the marketplace.”
The Artificial Turf Evolution
Artificial turf has been available since 1965. However, according to FieldTurf’s website, even though natural grass required constant maintenance and could not withstand heavy use, it was considered by many to be the best solution for sports fields around the world prior to FieldTurf’s own revolutionary design for artificial turf fields in the early 1990’s.
Former professional athletes John Gilman (“Gilman”) and Jean Provost founded FieldTurf in 1994 to design and sell a new artificial turf that allegedly would be safer for athletes than the then existing artificial turf fields and “provide . . . high performance and extreme durability.” Specifically, they claimed to design a system of turf that more closely resembled natural grass by using individual synthetic grass fibers that are surrounded and stabilized by FieldTurf’s patented mixture of sand and rubber granules, or “infill,” rather than the shock pad used in more traditional systems. Prior to installation, the synthetic grass fibers that make up FieldTurf’s design are stitched or “tufted” into a permeable backing material in rows according to a spacing formula that allegedly enables cleats to penetrate the infill material rather than the fiber on the surface of the field. This spacing formula is claimed to provide traction and prevent player injuries.
FieldTurf knew that its new “infill” and “tufts” design alone could not assure the “high performance and extreme durability” it promised. In fact, FieldTurf understood, at all times, that the durability and performance of FieldTurf’s Artificial Turf Fields is and was intimately tied to the nature and properties of the fiber itself, including the fiber’s component materials and the extrusion method used to manufacture it. As explained below, FieldTurf placed great weight on the chemical composition of the fiber, as well as its method of extrusion, and FieldTurf deemed the component synthetic fiber properties to be the key factors affecting the long-term durability and performance of its finished Artificial Turf Fields.
Traditionally, synthetic fibers used in artificial grass field systems have taken one of two forms: slit-film tape or monofilaments. Both are extruded from a melted polymer mixed with a blend of other chemicals, known as a “Masterbatch,” which plays a key role in determining the finished fibers’ durability, including its fade-resistance and ability to withstand ultraviolet radiation. Slit-film tape fibers are extruded into flat sheets that are approximately five feet wide and then cut into a predetermined width and perforated by design. Monofilament fibers are made of the same basic polymer but extruded as spaghetti-like strands, rather than flat sheets.
For some time prior to 2004, FieldTurf built its artificial turf systems using slit-film tape, which had long-term durability issues due largely to the way in which it was manufactured and installed. During manufacturing, slit-film tape is mechanically cut into individual tapes from the original sheet of melted polymer, which are then cut again so that they have “slits” approximately 0.05 inches apart. The tape is then twisted, tufted into the fabric backing, and coated with polyurethane. During slit-film installation, the perforations are combed through repeatedly, or “fibrillated,” to form the individual filaments that will comprise the finished playing surface. This equates to a fiber that is repeatedly split and fibrillated during both manufacture and installation, ostensibly for a real world grass feel and look; this repeated splitting and fibrillation inherently compromises the integrity and durability of the finished artificial turf product.
A number of fiber manufacturers, including Mattex and TenCate, developed and manufactured monofilament fiber in response to the need for a fiber that was a more durable alternative to slit-film tape.
As noted above, while monofilament fiber is made from the same basic “melted polymer plus Masterbatch formula” as slit-film tape, its extrusion process is markedly different. Rather than a flat five feet wide sheet, the extrusion process for microfilament pushes the melted polymer through a “spinneret,” which is a multi-pored device designed to shape each individual fiber, resulting in individual strands of fiber rather than a flat sheet. No further splitting or cutting is necessary, reducing manufacturing-based premature fiber destruction. The individual strands are then wrapped together with a wrap yarn and passed through a machine for tufting. Once tufted, the monofilament fiber does not need to be fibrillated or untwisted prior to installation, thereby reducing installation-based causes of premature fiber destruction. When manufactured correctly, the result, purportedly, is a more durable finished product.
However, the microfilament extrusion process carries its own risks to durability, and both the polymer and Masterbatch blends vary between manufacturers—differences which can lead to a pronounced impact on fiber durability and performance. The extrusion of monofilament polyethylene fiber is a highly technical process, which requires significant expertise and precise control of temperature and pressure levels. Small changes in extrusion settings (e.g., line speed, capillary throughput, or head pressure) can dramatically impact a fiber’s mechanical durability and resilience. Further, if pressure and temperature are not kept under control, meaningful damage can be done to the ultraviolet (“UV”) stabilizer packages that are added to proprietary Masterbatch formulas. Adequate UV protection is crucial to any fiber’s long-term durability and ensures that the extruded polymer fibers are able to withstand long-term exposure to UV radiation, i.e., sunlight. If a fiber is not provided with UV stabilizers of an adequate quality or amount, it will fade, split, and break down as it is exposed to the sun’s rays over time.
Early versions of these microfilament fibers had very thin, flat blades that were prickly to touch, and as such, they were used primarily in landscape projects. In 2003, Mattex introduced the Evolution Fiber, which had a “U” shape containing a curved spine with wings, and which created a softer, more grass-like texture.
FieldTurf’s co-founder, Gilman, first learned about Mattex’s new monofilament fiber at an industry show in November 2003. FieldTurf placed an initial order for Evolution Fiber and invited Mattex’s Managing Director, Jeroen van Balen (“van Balen”), to FieldTurf’s office in Montreal, Canada to discuss the new fiber.
In 2004, FieldTurf requested to, and did, examine the results of Mattex’s UV stability testing, which evaluated the Evolution Fiber’s durability, tensile strength, and colorfastness under prolonged UV exposure. FieldTurf also outsourced its own series of tests to examine the UV stability and durability of the Evolution Fiber. Finally, FieldTurf conducted in-house accelerated wear testing on turf samples constructed with Evolution Fiber, or “Mad Max” testing, to test for premature wear, i.e. in the form of fibrillation or splitting.
FieldTurf insisted on reviewing and conducting the preliminary testing going to UV stability and accelerated wear because it knew, well before entering into any agreement with Mattex for the Evolution Fiber, that chemical composition was a key factor in the fiber’s ability to outlast and outperform, and therefore key to FieldTurf’s ability to maintain its marketing claims regarding unmatched durability, extreme performance, and a long lifespan. In particular, FieldTurf understood, prior to entering any agreement with Mattex, that UV degradation was a major potential cause of premature deterioration in synthetic fibers.
FieldTurf and Mattex ultimately signed and entered into an exclusive supply agreement for the Evolution Fiber on September 10, 2005 (“2005 Supply Agreement”).
On November 29, 2006, FieldTurf and Mattex entered into another exclusive supply agreement for the Evolution Fiber, which was extended through subsequent amendments (“2006 Supply Agreement”).
On July 1, 2008, FieldTurf entered into a new two and one-half year supply agreement with TenCate, whose parent company had acquired Mattex on February 12, 2007 (“2008 Supply Agreement. Mattex and/or TenCate were the exclusive suppliers of the Evolution Fiber.
All Artificial Turf Fields manufactured and sold by FieldTurf between 2005 and 2012 were constructed with the defective Evolution Fiber.
FieldTurf had ample evidence, even before it signed its first contract with Mattex, that the Evolution Fiber did not meet the durability and UV standards FieldTurf knew were needed for its intended product. Certainly, by the time FieldTurf signed the 2006 Supply Agreement and the 2008 Supply Agreement with Mattex and/or TenCate, FieldTurf knew that the Evolution Fiber was defective and, as such, knew that its Artificial Turf Fields could not live up to its marketing claims or consumers’ expectations.
FieldTurf Dominates the Artificial Turf Market
Beginning in 2005 and continuing through 2012, FieldTurf manufactured, marketed, sold, and installed its Artificial Turf Fields with Evolution in 2005 under the brand names “FieldTurf,” “Duraspine,” “Duraspine Pro,” “Prestige,” “Evolution,” “Tarkett,” and “FieldTurf Tarkett.”
FieldTurf’s Artificial Turf Fields were the most expensive on the market. The average price for an Artificial Turf Field was between $300,000 and $500,000, with some consumers paying more than $1 million for construction and installation. A typical field averaged about an $85,000 premium or approximately about $1 per square foot more than the competition.
FieldTurf justified this high cost by promising consumers its Artificial Turf Fields were more durable with better performance and a longer useable life than its competitors. For example:
(a) FieldTurf’s marketing showcased high-profile, real world clients, such as the New England Patriots, to convince consumers by way of example that its Artificial Turf Fields were indeed worth the investment due to a longer lifespan;
(b) FieldTurf claimed in its marketing materials that the Artificial Turf Fields had “unmatched durability” and were “far more resistant to UV and foot traffic”;
(c) In a trade publication article in 2006, FieldTurf’s CEO Gilman said, “[w]e anticipate that a mono surface will have a useful life longer than the 10 years we expect from a tape filament surface”;
(d) FieldTurf wrote in a brochure for the Artificial Turf Fields that their prior iteration, the slit-film fields, “have been in the ground for over 10 years of consistent play, season after season” and that the Artificial Turf Fields “are expected to last even longer due to the obvious increase in durability of our built-in fiber properties”;
(e) A typical FieldTurf pitch from 2005 – 2012 claimed its Artificial Turf Fields “would virtually eliminate the maintenance costs associated with natural grass and could be used 12 months a year, dawn to dusk and under the lights.” It continued, “[t]hese fields would also last far longer than competitor turfs and even FieldTurf’s previous products”;
(f) Another typical marketing pitch claimed, “[t]his added longevity will actually allow the district to amortize the life of the field on a 10+ year basis rather than the 8+ year life expectancy”; and
(g) FieldTurf bolstered these claims of extreme performance and unmatched durability with an eight-year manufacturer’s warranty with the reassurance that the fields would indeed last ten years or more with little maintenance. As of the date of filing this Complaint, FieldTurf’s website advertises a similar, if not identical, warranty:
And while you’ll probably never need to use it, you can rest assured that you’re protected by the industry’s best warranty in the unlikely event something goes wrong with your artificial turf system.
These claims were a key differentiator between FieldTurf’s Artificial Turf Fields and other manufacturers’ synthetic grass products. Indeed, FieldTurf’s promises of performance, safety, durability, and an enhanced lifespan were the primary reason consumers purchased and installed the Artificial Turf Fields at a steep price premium.
Throughout its marketing of the Artificial Turf Fields, FieldTurf knowingly concealed the product’s defects, as well as the falsity of the representations that the product had an expected lifespan of more than 10-years. FieldTurf concealed all of this with the intention that consumers would rely on the false and misleading claims.
Marketing efforts were a success and sales skyrocketed, especially to schools and towns in New Jersey and across the country, mostly at tax payer expense—so much so that “architects for schools and towns began writing public bid specifications requiring monofilament fields, and sometimes demanding FieldTurf.” Court records shows that many town and school officials “relied on and used warranties and FieldTurf’s claims about fields lasting 10-plus years to win over skeptical residents worried about the price tag.” Id.
According to Troy Squires, FieldTurf’s Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing from 2004 to 2009: “Sales probably almost doubled in a few years . . . Very high margins, high prices, and it was very successful.”
Indeed, the numbers speak for themselves. Upon information and belief:
(a) In 2006, FieldTurf sold 168 Artificial Turf Fields nationally, including about 14 in New Jersey, for an estimated $67 million;
(b) In 2007, FieldTurf sold 317 Artificial Turf Fields nationally, including about 37 in New Jersey, for an estimated $127 million;
(c) In 2008, FieldTurf sold 419 Artificial Turf Fields nationally, including about 43 in New Jersey, for an estimated $168 million;
(d) In 2009, FieldTurf sold at least 307 Artificial Turf Fields nationally; and
(e) In 2010, FieldTurf sold at least 164 Artificial Turf Fields nationally.
(f) In total, FieldTurf earned approximately $572 million through the sale of nearly 1,500 fields from 2005 through 2012, the year it discontinued the sale of the Artificial Turf Fields at issue in this Complaint.
Each of the Artificial Turf Fields that FieldTurf marketed, sold, manufactured, and/or installed were made with the same defective Evolution Fiber, rendering the fields themselves defective and causing significant premature deterioration, a shorter than promised lifespan, and significantly sub-par performance.
Discovery and Omission of Truth Regarding Defective Evolution Fiber
As has only recently been revealed, beginning in the early 2000’s FieldTurf knew that its Artificial Turf Fields could not possibly meet the unmatched durability, safety, and superior performance claims it made in its uniform marketing campaign to consumers in New Jersey and across the country, and from the time it started manufacturing, marketing, selling, and installing those fields until the year it discontinued them, FieldTurf concealed a major material truth – the Artificial Turf Fields were made with defective Evolution Fiber that offered poor UV protection and were prone to premature deterioration, fraying, fading, matting, and fibrillating years before their promised lifespan.
In fact, by early 2005, Derek Bearden, FieldTurf USA’s then-Vice President of Manufacturing at its plant in Dalton, Georgia had already noticed a drop in the performance of the Evolution Fiber under Mad Max testing, a test FieldTurf designed to simulate foot traffic on turf samples and assess how many cycles the sample can withstand before showing fibrillation or splitting, as compared to the Evolution Fiber FieldTurf had first inspected in 2003 and 2004.
Additionally, Bonar Yarns, another of FieldTurf’s suppliers, warned FieldTurf in May 2005 that its own testing of the defective Evolution Fiber showed it “did not stand up well to wear and tear.” Gilman emailed his director of manufacturing that month, asking: “Is it possible that we erred in our over exuberance in the adoption of the monofilament yarns, specifically the Mattex [Evolution Fiber] yarns?”
In October 2006, FieldTurf’s operations director for Latin America, Laura Braga, emailed CEO Gilman and executive director Ken Gilman (“K. Gilman”) to express her concern regarding premature deterioration in some of the earliest Artificial Turf Fields, which had been installed in high UV radiation areas in South America: “The corner kick and goal mouth areas are showing premature wear in both the small fields and the big fields.” According to NJ Advance Media, “Braga said the Chileans had reported FieldTurf’s first South American field, a slit-film built in 2003, was in better condition than the less-than-1-year-old” Artificial Turf Fields using Evolution. On December 28, 2006, Gilman emailed van Balen at Mattex, writing “We are seeing fields showing splitting after under a year of play and have already had to replace one full-size field due to yarn failure after only a few months of installation!”
From at least October 2006 forward, FieldTurf, including its top executives, knew full-well that its Artificial Turf Fields were prematurely deteriorating and becoming matted shortly after installation and that FieldTurf chose to conceal that problem from the buying public, despite internal protestations from concerned employees.
In July 2007, K. Gilman arranged a trip to New Jersey with FieldTurf’s interim CEO from 2007-2008, David Moszkowski (“Moszkowski”), and other executives to demonstrate and bring them up to speed on the problems that had been occurring in fields installed in the state. K. Gilman summarized their observations of Evolution’s premature deterioration, fading, and matting in an email to the group and Darren Gill (“Gill”), the Director of Marketing, explaining: “This yarn is nowhere near as robust or resilient as we initially thought and probably will not last that much longer than a high quality slit-film yarn . . . . In all likelihood in years 5 and 6 these Duraspine fields will be matted down and fibrillating pretty heavily. . . . Our marketing claims and sales pitches need to reflect this reality.
In November 2007, K. Gilman sent an email to Moszkowski and FieldTurf’s Vice President of Operations from 2000 to 2008, Kevin Reynolds (“Reynolds”), writing emphatically: “This opens us up to tons of exposure from a legal standpoint,” K. Gilman wrote. “The claims made regarding the Duraspine … fiber are ridiculous. Every day we are putting stuff out there that can’t and won’t live up to the marketing spin. We have to control this somehow!!!”
In February 2008, K. Gilman emailed Moszkowski and others, writing: “I don’t want to beat a dead horse but I think this issue (field ‘failure’, monofilament layover, et cetera …) is extremely important and requires further analysis and discussion . . . Duraspine is not all that it’s cracked up to be especially in terms of wear resistance.”
In 2008, on the same day that yet another CEO, Joe Fields (“Fields”), took the helm, K. Gilman again implored senior management to respond to the growing crisis. Analyzing FieldTurf’s failures, K. Gilman wrote: “Irresponsible sales and marketing claims are made continuously that the product simply cannot possibly technically deliver on . . . . This sets us up for future claims, unhappy consumers, lawsuits, etc.” Despite K. Gilman’s continuing protestations and customer complaints, FieldTurf entered into another exclusive supply agreement with TenCate and continued selling the Artificial Turf Fields until 2012.
Over the course of 2009 and 2010, FieldTurf received complaints from a significant number of consumers in North America who had purchased the Artificial Turf Fields, all of which contained the defective Evolution Fiber. Each complaint pointed to the same premature degradation of the fibers, resulting in splitting and shedding during routine use, as well as excessive thinning and fading.
FieldTurf representatives, including Howard McNeil (Senior Vice President of Operations) and Brian Waters (Director of Logistic and Purchasing), reported customer complaints to TenCate representatives, and in mid-2010, McNeil and Waters established weekly telephone conferences and monthly in-person meetings to address the quality and production issues associated with the Evolution Fiber.
In 2010, FieldTurf also conducted its own independent investigation of the Evolution Fiber and confirmed what it had already known to be true since 2006: the Evolution Fiber was defective. Specifically, FieldTurf tests showed that the premature deterioration in its Artificial Turf Fields was caused by a combination of inadequate UV protection and a sub-standard polymer in the Evolution Fiber’s chemical composition.
Then they sued. In 2011, FieldTurf brought suit against Mattex and TenCate for fraudulent inducement, among other things, alleging that the Evolution Fiber Mattex/TenCate supplied to them under the 2005 Supply Agreement, the 2006 Supply Agreement, and the 2008 Supply Agreement were indeed defective from the first shipment through the last.
And yet, during this entire period of time, and despite customer complaints and internal employee warnings, its own internal investigation and its lawsuit against its third party supplier, never once did FieldTurf modify its marketing campaigns or disclose the defective Evolution Fiber and the true nature of the Artificial Turf Fields to anyone – not potential consumers, not past purchasers, not consumers who complained of premature deterioration, both inside and outside of the eight-year warranty period, and certainly not public authorities.
Instead, as it did for so many years prior to bringing the suit, FieldTurf kept on manufacturing, marketing, selling, and installing the very product it knew to be defective, using the same marketing claims about unmatched durability, extreme performance, and a ten plus year lifespan, and further, concealing material information that made those claims suspect, if not downright impossible to meet.
In an industry without set standards, consumers relied on FieldTurf’s claims and assurances that the Artificial Turf Fields were performing as they should and that they would and could live up to the consistent, unwavering, marketing hype promising extreme performance, unmatched durability, and a ten plus year lifespan.
FieldTurf’s current Vice President of Marketing, Innovation and Customer Service, Gill, flatly stated in a 2012 deposition that marketing materials for the Artificial Turf Fields were never changed to reflect the true impact of the defective Evolution Fiber because “[he] wasn’t asked to change them.” Period. End of story.
Reynolds summarized FieldTurf’s outrageous actions and response to the defective Evolution Fiber in an interview: “You can’t stick your head in the sand and say this isn’t a major problem, not a major issue, let’s just keep going . . . You have to make the necessary adjustments based on what you’re seeing, and the company never did that.”
But, FieldTurf did stick its head in the sand, concealing the problem, marketing and installing fields known to contain the defective Evolution Fiber, never notifying consumers or attempting to make them whole, and never modifying its marketing campaigns and representations accordingly. Indeed, it left consumers in the dark and kept pocketing revenue from sales of Artificial Turf Fields that it knew were made with a defective fiber and incapable of delivering on FieldTurf’s extreme and fallacious marketing claims.
The Truth Begins to Be Revealed
In December 2016, NJ Advance Media published the shocking results of its thorough and searching investigation into the Artificial Turf Fields, the defective Evolution Fiber, and Defendants’ elaborate and well-concealed fraud. Indeed, it took NJ Advance Media six months of in-depth investigation, analyzing 5,000 pages of production from 40 document requests, interviewing dozens of coaches, officials, and current and former FieldTurf employees, examining 50 fields in New Jersey, and commissioning the services of an independent testing laboratory the University of Michigan’s Breaker Space Lab to test turf fibers from three locations containing the Artificial Turf Fields in New Jersey to uncover the breadth of the fraudulent scheme.
Today, FieldTurf officials concede that it has replaced nearly one of every five, or approximately 20 percent of, outdoor Artificial Turf Fields that it sold between 2005 and 2012. However, that number is but a small reflection of the true impact this fraudulent scheme had, and continues to have, on schools, towns, and others.
FieldTurf made these replacements with the same synthetic grass, containing the same defective Evolution Fiber, without any extension of warranty, without disclosing the lawsuit against its supplier, and without informing consumers that the replacement would likely perform no better than the field being replaced. When asked in 2014 if FieldTurf told consumers the Evolution Fiber was defective, FieldTurf President Eric Daliere testified: “Not in those words.”
When consumers reported or questioned the premature deterioration, FieldTurf falsely reassured consumers that its Artificial Turf Fields were performing as they should and that the deterioration was part of normal wear and tear. Due to the lack of industry standards by which to compare performance, consumers had no way of knowing the statements were untrue. They relied on FieldTurf’s false assurances, to their detriment. Indeed, Charles Cook, FieldTurf’s Vice President of Construction and Installations for North America, testified that the deterioration was not part of the normal aging process: “On other fibers, other fields, other products, we just don’t see this type of fracturing, shedding, breaking, releasing of fibrils.”
Upon information and belief, FieldTurf wrongfully denied an untold number of valid warranty claims or delayed curing the reported defect for years, running out the clock on its eight-year warranty.
Upon information and belief, the costs of replacement, even under warranty, can be and often are significant. When FieldTurf did agree to replace the defective Artificial Turf Fields, it charged a premium of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Still, FieldTurf has not yet told the majority of its consumers about the defective Evolution Fiber and the premature deterioration and sub-par performance it causes in the Artificial Turf Fields.
At bottom, FieldTurf promised unmatched durability, extreme performance, and a ten plus year lifespan. It delivered consumers a product that came nowhere near close to meeting those promises, and those consumers still do not have fields of the quality for which they paid and contracted.
Though emails between FieldTurf employees and officers showed that FieldTurf was aware of the defective Evolution Fiber as early as 2006, and possibly earlier, FieldTurf knowingly concealed the defective Evolution Fiber from consumers and the public at large, representing and intentionally manufacturing, marketing, selling, and installing Artificial Turf Fields containing the defective Evolution Fiber, a product that fell far below what was promised through its advertisements and contracts for sale.
Defendants’ fraud was elaborate and well concealed. Indeed, it took NJ Advance Media six months of in-depth investigation, analyzing 5,000 pages of production from 40 document requests, interviewing dozens of coaches, officials, and current and former FieldTurf employees, examining 50 fields in New Jersey, and commissioning the services of an independent testing laboratory the University of Michigan’s Breaker Space Lab to test turf fibers from three locations containing the Artificial Turf Fields in New Jersey to uncover the breadth of the fraudulent scheme. Even now, requests from government officials to open federal and state investigations into the scheme are pending, which investigations could reveal even more that has yet to be discovered.
Can Artificial turf cause cancer? See Below
Can Artificial Grass Cause Cancer? By ClassAction.org
What’s the Problem? Synthetic turf contains mercury, lead, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, arsenic and other carcinogens. These substances have been linked to several types of cancer, including leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Who’s At Risk? It is believed that children who play sports, such as soccer, on artificial turf fields may be at the greatest risk for developing cancer.
What Is ‘Crumb Rubber’? “Crumb rubber” is used in artificial turf fields to fill the space between the grass blades. It is a form of recycled rubber made from automobile and truck tires. The EPA states that a number of materials, including lead and benzene, may be found in tires. Therefore, some believe that these same substances may also be present in artificial turf fields across the country.
Have Lawsuits Been Filed? Yes, three of the country’s biggest manufacturers of artificial turf; Field Turf, AstroTurf LLC and Beaulieu Group, have already agreed to reduce the amount of lead in their products. This came after the California Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit alleging that the companies failed to warn the public about harmful substances in their artificial turf products. These lawsuits did not provide compensation to those injured as a result of exposure to synthetic turf.
Attorneys are investigating potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been regularly exposed to artificial turf (such as on a soccer field or playground) and have been diagnosed with cancer. Several leading manufacturers have faced fines and legal action over claims that their products contain hazardous amounts of lead and other known carcinogens; however, the companies have yet to face action from those whose health may have been affected. In light of heightened concern over the health risks associated with synthetic turf, attorneys want to speak with anyone, including parents of young children and teens, who are suspicious about the link between turf exposure and a loved one’s cancer diagnosis.
Who is at risk? Any child or adult who has spent an extended amount of time on artificial playing fields may have been exposed to lead and other carcinogens. Child athletes, especially high school soccer goalies, are thought to be particularly at risk for health problems related to artificial turf, as they are routinely in contact with the ground.
Study Find Dangerous Amounts of Lead in Artificial Turf
The main reason artificial turf is particularly dangerous is because it contains “crumb rubber,” which is made of ground-up rubber tires and is used to fill space between the turf’s grass blades. According to the EPA, tires contain lead and a number of other potentially hazardous substances, leading many to believe that artificial turf products may also contain the same dangerous compounds and materials found in automobile and truck tires.
In 2010, as part of a state investigation, artificial turf at The Mission Recreation Center in San Francisco was tested for lead levels. At the time, the California state standard for lead in children’s products (turf is classified as a children’s product since children frequently play on it) was 300 parts per million (ppm). The Mission Recreation Center’s field was found to contain 17,000 ppm, which meant that the turf contained a dangerously high level of lead. The California standard for lead ppm has since been lowered to only 60 ppm, making the recreation center’s turf more than 250 times the level now thought to be safe. Unfortunately, it is believed that such high levels of lead in sports fields across the country are not uncommon.
Companies Reduce Lead Use in Turf, But Thousands Still At Risk
In 2009 and 2010, Field Turf, AstroTurf LLC and Beaulieu Group faced legal action from the California Attorney General’s Office over allegations that they failed to warn the public about the lead in their products. As a result of a settlement, the turf manufacturers agreed to drastically reduce the use of lead in their products and to replace turf in fields considered to be unsafe; however, because this settlement only required the companies to replace unsafe turf in California, thousands of playgrounds, parks and sports fields across the country may still contain hazardous levels of lead.
A 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, states that:
“Tests by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) of artificial turf playing fields in that state found these fields contain potentially unhealthy levels of lead dust.”
A recent NBC News report also highlighted the scale of the problem:
“Artificial turf fields are now everywhere in the United States, from high schools to multi-million-dollar athletic complexes.”
While it’s long been known that artificial turf products contain lead and a number of toxic chemicals, it’s now believed that these substances can be released into the air if the turf breaks down. This can put individuals regularly exposed to synthetic turf at risk for inhaling or ingesting lead and other dangerous substances.
A Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection study, for example, found a variety of compounds in the air above playing fields and parks where artificial turf was present. The report noted that:
“Based upon the pattern of detection, it is considered likely that benzothiazole, acetone, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, butylated hydroxytoluene, naphthalenes and several other PAHs were field-related.”
What Can I Do?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a form of cancer, such as leukemia or lymphoma, after being exposed to artificial turf, you may be able to take part in a lawsuit to seek compensation for medical expenses and other damages.
Contact Mitnick Law Office by telephone at 856.427.9000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also submit any questions or submit a new matter by completing the Submit a New Case form to the right of this page.