HOUSTON – Thousands of toilets in homes all over the country, and many in the Houston area, are defective and prone to cracking. It has happened in dozens of homes, causing thousands of dollars in damage from leaking water.
"I've been doing this nearly 30 years, and I've never seen any toilet fail like this," general contractor Mike Teeple said.
Teeple installed 2 Vortens toilets in a client's Copperfield home in 2013. When one of the tanks cracked a few months later, he thought it was odd.
When the second one cracked in an upstairs bathroom flooding the home, he was more than skeptical.
"Toilets don't fail like that," Teeple told consumer expert Amy Davis. "They don't crack for no reason."
Channel 2 Investigates found the Vortens toilets cracking in homes from The Woodlands to Pearland, Copperfield to Garden Oaks. Teeple blogged about the problem, and he said he receives about two complaints a week about the toilets cracking across the country.
"I've had emails from Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and all throughout the Houston area," he said.
Amy Etchberger was at work when her tank cracked. Her in-laws, who were staying at her house, noticed the leak and shut off the water, avoiding major damage. But Etchberger has hit a roadblock trying to get her home builder or Vortens to replace the cracked toilet and the three other Vortens toilets in her home.
"I think they should take care of it," she told Davis. "It's not my mistreatment of the product. It's a faulty product on their part, and they should take responsibility."
No one from Vortens would return KPRC Channel 2's calls about this issue, but Vortens representative Carlos Andrés Ríos Pinto emailed this information:
"They know they're going to fail," Ann Aults said. "I mean, they have to know that."
Aults' cracked toilet caused more than $20,000 in damage when it flooded her home in 2013. Vortens only agreed to pay her $4,390 deductible after Davis called them, nearly two and a half years after the incident.
"They need to recall anybody who still has one of those toilets," said Aults.
Andrés Ríos Pinto wouldn't answer when Davis asked why the company doesn't issue a recall. The company has settled several lawsuits and paid damages when homeowners or their insurance companies have sued them.
. If you have a Vortens toilet in your home, and would like to replace it, attorney Evin Dugas (http://www.housedefects.com/3/About_Us.html) who specializes in protecting consumers from home defects, says your best bet to get Vortens to foot that bill is to take them to small claims court.
"I think pretty much anybody that has that toilet should get those replaced, unless they want to be cleaning up a flood," said Dugas.
Dugas said you should get an estimate from a plumber for the total cost of replacing all of the affected Vortens toilets in your home. Use that estimate in small claims court to get Vortens to pay that amount. And because Vortens is now admitting the defect, but refuses to recall them, you can ask the court for a "knowing violation." If the judge finds that Vortens sold the toilet knowing there was a problem with it, you are entitled to two times your actual damages.
Vortens is based in Mexico; but Dugas said that shouldn't prevent consumers from taking them to small claims court. The company has a registered agent in Texas. You would serve that agent when you file your small claims case.
CT Corporation System
(Listed Registered Agent for Vortens)
350 North St. Paul Street, Ste. 2900
Dallas, Texas 75201
Etchberger is filing her small claims case against Vortens. We are following her case; and we will let you know what happens.