A federal district court has dismissed a class action lawsuit filed by Henry Gifford, owner of New York-based Gifford Fuel Savings Inc., and others who claimed that the U.S. Green Building Council made false claims to consumers.
In an Aug. 17 ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said that Gifford and the other plaintiffs lacked the legal standing to sue because they do not compete with the USGBC. As a result, the court did not address the broader question of the credibility of the organization's claims about the energy efficiency of buildings it certifies under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
In the lawsuit, Gifford and others alleged that a 2008 study conducted for the USGBC by Vancouver-based New Buildings Institute maintained that new buildings certified under LEED are, on average, performing 25% to 30% better than non-LEED buildings in terms of energy use. The suit claimed the study was flawed and that the findings equated to “false advertising.”
Lawrence Weinstein, partner with New York-based law firm Proskauer Rose, who represented the USGBC in the case, says, “USGBC believes very strongly that they never said anything to the public that was in any way untrue or misleading.”
But Gifford, who says he is “disappointed” in the decision, maintains that LEED-certified buildings aren't any more efficient than ordinary buildings. He adds that his business, as well as other businesses that do not participate in the LEED program, have suffered negative consequences because of competition from LEED-accredited professionals. He adds that he will continue to discuss with others potential legal action “involving plaintiffs the court might view as more direct competitors.”
Weinstein says Gifford and others have a constitutional right to criticize the USGBC, “but the fact that an [organization] like the USGBC has critics doesn't mean there's a lawsuit there. There was no lawsuit there, in our view, either by Mr. Gifford or the other plaintiffs or anybody else.”