BP LLC and a proposed class of consumers who had claimed that the oil company produced defective solar panels have agreed to a settlement worth more than $67 million. The settlement class of solar panel owners and the oil company, which is no longer in the solar business, agreed that BP will either fully or partially replace and inspect all class members’ panels, largely paid for with money held in a common fund established by BP and administered by an independent claims administrator.

The consumers’ complaint, which was originally filed in California state court and removed to federal court in February 2014, alleges that defects in BP’s solar panels caused the shoulder joint of the panels to overheat. The heat melted the junction box, burned the cables and the solar panel and shattered the panel’s glass cover. The settlement class is made up of all individuals or entities in the U.S. that either purchased the panels to install themselves or bought properties where the panels were already in place.

Under the proposed settlement, BP will cover the full replacement of solar panels for class members with certain models that have higher failure rates. All other class members will get individual failed panels replaced, but will be eligible for full replacement if their system’s failure rates jump past 20 percent. BP will also install for free a new inverter with advanced safety technology.

Owners of large, nonresidential systems can get a mediated commercial negotiation with BP, and will be free to opt out of the settlement if unsatisfied with any proposed compromises coming out of the mediation. The settlement, valued at more than $67 million, also includes nearly $12 million in attorneys’ fees and $7,500 service payments to lead Plaintiffs Michael Allagas, Arthur Ray and Brett Mohrman, and $3,500 to Plaintiff Brian Dickson.

In their original complaint, the Plaintiffs said that because BP’s subsidiary BP Solar International Inc. is now defunct, BP can neither replace nor repair the allegedly defective panels. The three named Plaintiffs say that they all reported solar panel failures to BP in 2013, after its solar arm had shut down. In response, the company offered to reimburse each of the Plaintiffs for a little more than a third of the total cost of removing and replacing the defective solar panels.

The Plaintiffs are represented by Robert J. Nelson, Nimish R. Desai and John T. Spragens of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, and David M. Birka-White and Mindy M. Wong of the Birka-White Law Offices. The case is Michael Allegas et al. v. BP Solar International Inc. et al., in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Source: Law360.com

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