A fund set up to replace defective Omega fire sprinklers used in more than 3 million California buildings does not contain enough cash to cover owners' claims, federal regulators said.
Owners of about 8.4 million Omega-model sprinklers manufactured by Central Sprinkler Co. between 1983 and 1986 have until Sunday to file claims under the company's October 1998 settlements of two class-action lawsuits and the terms of a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recall.
The deals entitled claimants to free replacement sprinklers and to reimbursement for costs to remove the defective heads and to install new ones. But with 35,000 claims filed so far and 1,500 pouring in daily, the $37.3 million set aside by Lansadale, Pa.-based Central Sprinkler for the recall program may pay out as little as 33 cents on the dollar, executives at the company acknowledged.
Los Angeles Fire Marshal Jimmy Hill estimates that up to 1 million Omega sprinklers were installed in the city's homes, offices, hospitals and hotels.
Omega sprinklers failed to activate or functioned improperly in at least 21 fires since 1990, including blazes in a West Hollywood apartment complex and the Escondido Gardens retirement center, the product safety commission said. No one was injured in the California fires.
To qualify for reimbursement, consumers must fill out proof-of-claim forms and submit photographs of each Omega model they claim must be replaced. The material must be postmarked by Sunday.
Consumers who miss the deadline, but submit claims by Nov. 1, 2001, will receive replacement sprinklers, but not cash for installation work.
To request forms and to get more information on how to recognize Omega models, consumers can call (800) 896-5685 or get them from the company's Web address, http://www.omegarecall.com.