A defective Lincoln Log set results in a judgement for disgruntled consumers of a quarter-million dollars in Alabama, Campbell Law reports
GADSDEN, AL (STL.News) Twenty-seven years ago Forbes Magazine’s cover story, titled “Tort Hell,” branded Alabama as a place where lawsuits were like playing the lottery. After decades of tort reform legislation and the election of conservative judges from the local-level all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court, even ardent tort reform advocates declared that Alabama courts had returned to a reasonable and predictable foundation and that Alabama was “open for business.”
Consequently, major businesses are now flocking to Alabama for its cheap labor, anti-union workforce, inexpensive housing, and overall pleasant quality of life. While many people question whether the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction, one thing is for certain: it takes dedication and unquestionable integrity to focus a law firm’s practice on consumer protection litigation in Alabama. Campbell Law, PC, out of Birmingham and Mobile fits that bill, says founder Tom Campbell.
On February 18, 2020, an Etowah County Judge ordered a $250,000 award to the plaintiffs in a case over bad Lincoln Logs. Does this judgment indicate that Alabama is once again a “hell” for American businesses? You decide.
Well, the Lincoln Log kit involved in this dispute is not the childhood building block set originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John Lloyd Wright, that were wildly popular in a simpler time, the same toys now sold by K’Nex and manufactured in Maine. No. These were pine logs supplied by Lincoln Logs International as part of a kit to build a couple’s dream home. Campbell Law, which has spent the last two decades protecting consumers from fraudulent practices in the wood destroying organisms industry, obtained a verdict of $250,000 for a Gadsden family who had purchased a log home that was both poorly constructed and devastated by beetles which could only have infested the logs before the Lincoln Logs kit was sold to the homeowners.
The family who purchased the kit of Lincoln Logs lived frugally for a lifetime to build and own their dream of a beautiful log home out in the country. They paid cash to own the home free-and-clear in retirement. The couple even asked direct questions of the Kannapolis, North Carolina, log supplier to make sure that the logs for their home were treated or kiln-dried to prevent active beetle larvae. The trial evidence established that the couple was completely innocent. The family did their homework and everything they could to make a wise decision because they had read horror stories about new log homes being infested with destructive beetles.
To their horror, months after investing their life savings into their retirement home, the couple saw metallic flathead beetles digging out of the logs all over the house. Fixing the house will be impossible or very expensive. The home had deteriorated so badly by the time of trial that wind and rain poured into the house during storms. Experts testified that the home will have to be rebuilt from the ground up or something very close to that. Like the Lincoln Logs that children play with, the home must be taken apart log-by-log to replace the infested wood logs.
After years of litigation, the company who invites customers to “Live the American Dream!” on their website admitted at trial that it never did anything to prevent beetles. The information Lincoln Logs International gave to the homeowners was false – fraudulent. Lincoln Logs International offered no excuse for why it promises to treat logs for beetles when it really does nothing. Other than trying to place all the blame on the builder, who happened to be an exclusive seller of Lincoln Log kits, Lincoln Logs International offered no valid excuse for its deceit.
At trial, Campbell Law lawyers, Matt Nicholson and Chris Cochran, called entomology professor from Auburn University, who explained that the destructive beetles and their larvae may live inside and continue to consume the logs for up to 30 years without finally and fully emerging.
Because it learned after taking the case that Lincoln Log International’s business practices would make collection efforts difficult and time consuming, Campbell Law PC and its lawyers agreed to help these innocent victims for free. Indeed, not only did they waive their fee for the hundreds of hours of legal time spent preparing and trying the case, they also paid the couples litigation expenses out of their own pockets – nearly $30,000
Campbell Law PC, has a long track record of success bringing claims for people and businesses whose property is damaged by wood destroying pests. They have recovered tens of millions of dollars against pest control companies and are lawyers who almost exclusively handle pest control cases. According to Cochran, “Lawyers with special experience have a duty to help the public by providing legal work at no charge when the circumstances call out for it. This is one of those times. Sometimes being of service is reward enough.”
“While it is undeniably a good thing that Alabama is attracting upstanding businesses to our state, let this be a cautionary tale for those which would intentionally deceive innocent homeowners,” warns Campbell. “We are watching and we are always ready.”