On December 22, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston granted final approval of a nationwide class action settlement between BP Solar International, Inc. and an estimated 8,000 class members. The effective date of the settlement was January 23, 2017, allowing for the distribution of settlement benefits to class members. There are two settlement categories. The first is a $45.33 million common fund to pay for the removal and replacement of a subset of Class Panels (Category 1), which have a high failure rate. The second is a separate $20 million claims made fund for the remaining subset of Class Panels (Category 2), which have a demonstrated lower failure rate. Additional details about the settlement is available at www.bpsolarsettlement.com.
Attorney David Birka-White described the lawsuit as follows, “I have practiced law for 38 years, specializing in product failure cases. This was a difficult case and required extensive litigation concerning the history of the solar panels in order to prove a systemic product design defect -- all the way back to the initial design of the product, predecessor designs, design analysis, manufacturability and profit motivation.”
California Fellow Mindy M. Wong of Birka-White Law Offices and co-counsel from Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP represented residential and commercial class members in the class action lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged the BP solar panels are prone to junction box failures which would burn the junction box, shatter the panel glass, and create a potential fire hazard. BP denied these claims. The complaint alleged violations of California consumer protection and unfair business practice laws as well as breaches of express and implied warranties by BP.
“This settlement was designed to protect the public interests on numerous levels. First of all, most of the 8,000 class members are homeowners who were among the pioneers in installing expensive solar systems on their homes --not only to save energy costs, but also to protect the Earth's sustainability. It was very important to help homeowners repair their solar systems and eliminate any fire risks,” states Mr. Birka-White.
The settlement class consists of anyone in the United States who purchased and currently own BP solar panels manufactured between 1999 to 2007 using what was known as the S-type junction box. The class is estimated to include some 8,000 class members throughout the United States with approximately 60% located in California.
Mindy Wong has been an associate with Birka-White Law Offices for over seven years. Ms. Wong specializes in consumer fraud and product liability related class action litigation and personal injury cases.