Last Wednesday, I woke up bleary eyed to catch a flight to New Orleans for the Green Legal Matters conference. Despite the fact that I was running late, I opened up my RSS feed and was suddenly startled wide awake when I read the following headline:
"Breaking: Henry Gifford Leads Class Action Lawsuit Against USGBC in Southern District of New York"
No longer concerned about the time, I found myself reading through the twenty-three page complaint, which makes numerous allegations against the USGBC and sets the table for a large class action lawsuit. I can tell you that the complaint was one of the hot topics at the Green Legal Matters conference in New Orleans. Today, I will discuss the basics of the complaint and on Wednesday I will discuss the initial hurdle of class certification. Frankly, I am not sure the lawsuit gets beyond the certification level.
You may be wondering what is the motivation of the plaintiff, Henry Gifford, to file this lawsuit? The answer appears on page two:
"L.E.E.D.-accredited professionals are often, and increasingly, people with ‘no experience whatsoever.’ When L.E.E.D.-accredited professionals design and build buildings instead of skilled professionals, such as the Plaintiffs, with years of experience making safe, comfortable, and energy-efficient environments, the marketplace, consumers, and the environment often suffer."
LEED accredited professionals can’t be skilled professionals? I have a feeling some readers will take umbrage at that statement.
Gifford then alleges two instances of fraudulent misrepresentation by the USGBC: (1) the New Building Institute study commissioned by the USGBC in 2008 allegedly included skewed data; and (2) the USGBC allegedly mislead the market by claiming LEED certification is third-party verified. Based on these allegations, the complaint then lists the following causes of action: monopolization through fraud, unfair competition, deceptive trade practices, false advertising, wire fraud, and unjust enrichment.
And what does Gifford ask for as a result of these alleged transgressions? $100,000,000.
What’s your initial take on the complaint?