Roto-Rooter accused of billing for unneeded work

  • Article by: NICOLE NORFLEET , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 14, 2011 - 9:34 PM

Suit comes amid scrutiny of plumbing giant's practices.

A Crystal woman and a Minneapolis couple are suing plumbing giant Roto-Rooter, accusing the company of pressuring customers into paying for unnecessary repairs.

In the complaint, filed Monday in Hennepin County, the plaintiffs ask to be reimbursed for repair work that they argue was not needed, and for Roto-Rooter to stop its alleged "deceptive and misleading practices."

Said Roto-Rooter spokesman Paul Omodt: "We do not comment on pending litigation other than through official statements filed as part of the legal process," he said. "We do, however, reiterate our ongoing commitment to address any service inquiries customers may have."

The company and its sales practices have come under scrutiny in Minneapolis, first by licensing officials and now police fraud investigators.

Last month, police searched the Plymouth office of Roto-Rooter and seized DVDs of drain lines, customer files, a personnel file of a Roto-Rooter employee and correspondence between the company and a subcontractor.

The company has said it stands by its work.

Plaintiff Dawn Mills, of Crystal, called Roto-Rooter last December after her sewer backed up, leaving her without water service. According to the lawsuit, a company representative said it couldn't completely unclog her line. After a camera was used to assess the problem, she was told her line was broken and would need $8,750 worth of repairs.

When a city inspector reviewed the repair, Mills was told that she overpaid. After watching the DVD of the camera inspection, another professional drain cleaner was unable to find any indication that the pipe was broken, the lawsuit said.

In February, plaintiff LuAnn Cosgrove of Minneapolis had a similar experience, according to the complaint. She and her husband, Michael, were charged $5,235 for a repair that a city inspector later said wasn't needed, the suit said.

"The case is about getting people the money back that they paid for repairs that were unnecessary," said Gordon Rudd, the attorney representing the homeowners.

Plaintiffs have asked for class-action status for the suit.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495

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