Heatway Systems failed to persuade a Cleveland federal district court jury in February that Goodyear Tire & Rubber manufactured defective hydronic radiant tubing. Goodyear argued that the nearly 700 failures of the tubing were the result of improper installation and maintenance of the systems.

Heatway found itself forced into the legal position of arguing that all 25 million ft. of hose produced by Goodyear were defective, said Heatway Vice President Dan Chiles. Chiles also said it was difficult to argue the case in Goodyear's "backyard."

"Goodyear, obviously, is very gratified by the verdict," said spokesman Fred Haymond. "We always have believed that the Entran II hose was appropriate for use in radiant home heating systems when it was sold and that if the Entran II hose is used in a system that is properly installed, operated and maintained, it will continue to provide many years of service."

Goodyear will probably now sue Heatway for the $2.5 million it owes for tubing, Haymond said.

Can Heatway pay? "Well, no," Chiles said. He said he doesn't know if the company will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Chiles said that Heatway and its insurance companies have paid $3.6 million to homeowners and contractors to remediate problem systems.

Homeowners still have the right to sue Goodyear and Heatway to recover for damage to their homes. At least two class-action lawsuits are in the works.

Chiles predicted that Goodyear will ultimately end up paying "to fix this mess" and that Heatway will survive because of the support of its customers and homeowners.

"I think it should have gone the other way," said hydronic consultant Dan Holohan. "I've seen these jobs and I'm pretty convinced that there's something wrong with that hose."

Holohan noted that Goodyear has blamed contractors for faulty installations.

"These contractors are professionals," he said. "They put them in the same way they've used other people's products.

"The door is open for a major manufacturer to point at product problems and say it's the contractor. They [Goodyear] are flat out saying they would put Entran II in a house. That calls contractors who have put in 10,000 jobs incompetent."