- A two-bit Chicago class action law firm named "McGuire Law" has filed suit against Home Depot and Menard's, a mid-western lumber chain, claiming that the construction lumber sold by the companies doesn't actually measure up to its nominal size. Sanction them, disbar them, then hang 'em high.
- The retailers say the allegations are bogus. It is common knowledge and longstanding industry practice, they say, that names such as two-by-four or four-by-four do not describe the width and thickness of those pieces of lumber.
Rather, the retailers say, those are “nominal” designations accepted in government-approved industry standards, which also specify actual minimum dimensions — 1½ inches by 3½ inches for a two-by-four, for example, and 3½ inches by 3½ inches for a four-by-four.
“Anybody who’s in the trades or construction knows that,” said Tim Stich, a carpentry instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
True enough, said Yevgeniy Turin of McGuire Law, the firm that represents the plaintiffs in both cases. [But] “It’s difficult to say that for a reasonable consumer, when they walk into a store and they see a label that says four-by-four, that that’s simply — quote unquote — a trade name,” Turin said in an interview.
Turin said his clients don’t argue that the retailers’ four-by-fours (and, in the Menards’ case, a one-by-six board as well) are not the correct size under the standards published by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The product labels, however, should disclose that those are “nominal” designations and not actual sizes, Turin said.
Some Menards customers aren’t buying it.
“They haven’t measured four inches by four inches since the ‘50s,” said Scott Sunila after loading purchases into his pickup.
“My God, that’s crazy,” the 60-year-old bulldozer operator said of the lawsuits. “Let me on the jury. They ain’t winning. And they’re gonna pay me extra for my time.”
Construction wood (as opposed to wood-working material) hasn't measured the size it was when cut since lumber companies began kiln-drying wood back, what, 100 years ago? Anyone who doesn't know that has no business trying to build something in the first place, even a lawyer named, as in this case, Yevgeny Turin.
Lawyers are required by the ethical rules that govern the profession to sign pleadings in good faith. Even assuming that Yevgeny, who's a mere associate and thus only partly responsible for this shakedown, and his idiot partner bosses, who are fully responsible, are city boys who don't know one end of a hammer from the other, they're still under an obligation to investigate the subject, both to competently represent their clients and to avoid filing a false claim. Had they merely Googled the question "is a 2x4 really 2 by 4 inches?" they'd have been lead to scores, even hundreds of answers, all answering in the negative, and all explaining why, like this one.
Green wood is indeed 2" x 4" when cut, but you don't want to use green wood: it warps, shrinks and oozes sap, all of which will ruin what you build. Before kiln drying began, green wood was air dried for months, even years, and that slow aging did leave the lumber pretty close to its original dimensions—measure the wood in a 1800 house or barn for instance—but when kiln drying was introduced to speed up the process, long, long ago, the faster process shrunk the wood. Seriously: everyone who uses construction wood knows, or should know this, and the lawyers involved here must know it too—they filed the suit to shake down Home Depot, in the hope that they could collect a massive fee as nuisance value, and yield their supposed clients nothing.
How did these cases materialize? Here's how.
As Turin described it, all three men in the lawsuits wanted the lumber for home-improvement projects, got home and measured the pieces, felt they had been deceived and then turned to the law firm.
Asked whether it was coincidence that three different men found the same sort of issue with lumber first at Menards and then at Home Depot, and then all decided to go to McGuire Law, Turin said he couldn’t comment.
I'd suggest hanging them, but that's probably too harsh. Disbarment, however, is not.