NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — An artificial turf company being sued after a report that executives knew fields might not live up to lofty marketing claims has hired the attorney who led the National Football League's investigation into New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Montreal-based FieldTurf has disputed that it engaged in wrongdoing, but is facing at least eight fraud lawsuits in federal courts in New Jersey, Minnesota, Texas and California, NJ.com reports (http://bit.ly/2mBK36i).
The company has hired New Jersey attorney Ted Wells. Wells was hired by the NFL to run the "Deflategate" investigation and concluded that Brady was likely "generally aware" about the deflation of footballs in the 2015 AFC Championship game. Brady served a four-game suspension.
The lawsuits came after a review of insider company records, emails and interviews by NJ.com found that FieldTurf sold more than 1,000 fields to towns, schools and teams across the U.S. when its executives knew they were falling apart faster than expected.
FieldTurf says that it has lived up to its warranties and hasn't hurt taxpayers.
"Going forward we will continue to take care of customers while fully defending ourselves against any attempts to take advantage of our company or to misrepresent the facts," the company said in a statement.
Lawsuits have been filed by two school districts in California, Lake Tahoe Unified and Santa Ynez Valley, the Newark school district in New Jersey, the borough of Carteret, a soccer club in Clifton and a pet resort in Minnesota.
Alexander Robertson IV, an attorney representing the California districts, said that his firm is speaking to several dozen schools across the country and expects more suits to be filed.
"The facts are stunning in terms of what the company knew versus what it was telling its customers," he said.
FieldTurf said that the turf it began selling in 2005 was revolutionary for its "unmatched durability" and that it would last a decade or more. But records obtained by NJ Advance Media show that as early as 2006, key FieldTurf executives became aware that the turf, known as Duraspine, was cracking, splitting and breaking apart long before it should and long before the public had been promised.
Most of the fields, which fetched $300,000 to $500,000 or more, were paid for with tax dollars. FieldTurf sold 1,428 of those fields in the U.S. to towns and even NFL teams for an estimated $570 million from 2005 until the product was discontinued in 2012.
Wells has previously represented Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson and Philip Morris in major class-action lawsuits.
This story has been corrected to show that the company is facing at least eight fraud lawsuits, not six.
Information from: NJ Advance Media.