FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – U.S. plywood producers claim a competing product from Brazil has a high risk of failure in major hurricanes, but consumers can’t tell because the imported wood is falsely certified as structurally sound.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, the companies allege that since 2016, two American inspection firms and an accreditation agency failed to perform their “quality control functions” when millions of square feet of plywood was imported into the U.S. Much of it arrived through Florida ports, including Broward County’s Port Everglades.
“As a result, U.S. residents who live or work in buildings constructed with off-grade Brazilian plywood are exposed to significant risk of serious injury or death, particularly in the event of a hurricane or significant earthquake,” the suit alleges.
The plywood is mainly used in the construction of residential and commercial buildings. Homeowners use it to help protect their windows from high winds and storm debris during hurricanes.
In a telephone interview, plaintiff attorney Michael Haglund, of Portland, ORegon, said Friday that some of the plywood in question was used to help with rebuilding in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
“The really unfortunate fact is that it is being passed off as structural plywood when it can’t meet that standard,” he said.
The suit was filed by a group of 10 plywood producers in the South and Pacific Northwest against inspection services PFS-TECO of Wisconsin and Timber Products Inspection Inc. of Georgia. A third defendant named in the suit is International Accreditation Service of California, which is the accrediting service for the two inspection firms.
Timber Products President Jay Moore denied the allegations Friday when the South Florida Sun Sentinel contacted his company Friday.
“We have reviewed the allegations of the complaint and believe that they are both misleading and totally without legal merit,” Moore said by email. “Timber Products will defend itself vigorously in court and is confident that the facts will show that its conduct and practices were in all respects consistent with its responsibilities and the standards applicable to this industry.”
Moore said he would offer a more detailed response to the allegations in the coming days.
The two other firms couldn’t be reached for comment.