Two School Districts, College Prep School Take Legal Action Over Faulty Artificial Turf

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Two California school districts and one college prep school took legal action, claiming the artificial turf fields they invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in are breaking down sooner than expected.

The company in question says they honor their warranties and fix fields where they see appropriate.

There are three lawsuits, but one similar complaint:

"The same kind of problems seem to reveal themselves in a number of different schools," said attorney Irina Mazor, who along with her partner, Peter Lindborg, is representing the schools.

Artificial turf fields advertised with at least eight-year warranties are failing after just four or five years, according to the lawsuits. Mazor said the issues are the turf is shredding, breaking, splitting and individual fibers are thinning.

The company on the hook facing accusations of fraud and breach of contract and warranty is FieldTurf.

Chaffey Joint Union High School District in Southern California, Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough and Bret Harte Union High School District in Angels Camp claim FieldTurf refused to replace the fields with non-defective fibers at no charge.

In a statement to FOX40, a spokesperson for FieldTurf said they're aware of the issue with earlier generations of the fibers.

"We no longer use these fibers, have worked closely with our customers to resolve this issue when it has arisen and have always been dedicated to honoring our warranties and remediating any affected fields where appropriate - at no additional cost to customers," said FieldTurf spokesperson Darren Gill via an emailed statement.

FieldTurf got the defective fibers through manufacturer TenCate. FieldTurf sued TenCate alleging the fibers used for the fields is less durable and would break down prematurely.

"We have evidence to suggest FieldTurf knew as far back as 2006 that the fiber it was using to manufacture the fields was defective and yet it continued to sell these products," said Mazor.

FieldTurf denies those claims. A spokesperson via email said there have only been issues with a handful of fields, just 2 percent of the 7,000 installed nationwide.

These fields aren't cheap. They average cost to taxpayers is about half a million dollars, and for some, any additional out-of-pocket expenses could be a waste.

"If the school districts aren't getting what they paid for neither are the taxpayers," said Jon Coupal, president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Lawyers said athletes are still playing on faulty fields at Crystal Springs and Bret Harte because of the pending litigation, but Chaffey used more of its own money to replace four fields.

Lawyers representing the schools can't say how long the legal process will take. Their investigation continues as to whether the field issues pose a danger to students who use them.

The Southern California-based firm said it's in talks with other entities and organizations in California who have had the same experience with the company FieldTurf.