Saturday, January 20, 2018
Business

Kane's Furniture settles class-action suit

TAMPA — A preliminary settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit filed against Kane's Furniture that accused the retailer of failing to honor lifetime warranties for defective "bonded leather" furniture that peeled, flaked and deteriorated.

Notices to about 15,000 customers who purchased the furniture were put in the mail starting Friday providing details and asking them to submit claims by April 11 for full or partial refunds or store credits, according to court records and plaintiff's attorney Dan Clark.

Kane's admits no wrongdoing in the settlement. It has blamed the Mississippi manufacturer that sold the furniture to Kane's for defects and the inconvenience caused to customers. In fact, Kane's filed suit against that manufacturer in a case that was later settled.

"We're glad we are finally going to be able settle this for the sake of our customers," said Lisa Brock, a Kane's spokeswoman. "Obviously, had we known this product was inferior or defective, we would never have purchased it. Any settlement helps us put a close to this and helps our customers move forward. It's regrettable that our customers were put through this."

Anyone who complained to Kane's about problems with the furniture within a year of purchase is eligible for a 100 percent refund of the purchase price or a store credit, documents show. Anyone who complained after a year — but no later than two years — is eligible for a 50 percent refund or a credit valued at 100 percent of the purchase price.

Additionally, Kane's has agreed to pay up to $2.5 million to those customers who did not complain within two years and others who never complained, ranging from 5 percent to 100 percent of the purchase price, depending on when the furniture was purchased, the claims notice says. That will be paid out in the form of a 60 percent store credit and a 40 percent cash payout.

Any payment made to Kane's for furniture repair counts toward the refund or credit, the settlement says. Customers who have already received an exchange, credit or refund are not eligible for additional payments or credits.

Final approval of the settlement could occur at a hearing in Hillsborough Circuit Court on May 1.

The settlement involves furniture sold from July 27, 2010, through Dec. 5, 2016. At issue was furniture manufactured by Southern Motion Inc. using bonded leather, a synthetic, processed leatherlike substance that contains less than 17 percent actual leather.

Plaintiffs said Kane's resisted honoring lifetime warranties, noting normal wear and tear was not covered. Customers were notified of the fine print in a brochure all received, the company has said.

Kane's, which was founded with a single store in St. Petersburg in 1948, is widely known around Tampa Bay. Today it has 18 stores along the west coast of Florida and Orlando, and is based in Pinellas Park. Eight of those stores are in Tampa Bay.

Doug Mincer, 60, who lives in Palm Bay on Florida's east coast and is one of two named plaintiffs in the case, bought a loveseat and a sofa from Kane's in 2012 that he said quickly deteriorated.

"I can live with this resolution," Mincer said Monday. "As long as they're going to fix the problem, that's all we can ask for."

Contact William R. Levesque at [email protected] Follow @Times_Levesque.

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