Hayward Filter Defective?

In August 2003 I purchased and installed myself a Hayward Pro-Grid 4820 vertical grid DE filter, 48 sq. ft. It's worked pretty well the entire time until recently. A month or so ago, my "old" pool company (I just fired them, more later) charged me $80 for a backwash and DE. That's in addition to their $80 monthly charge. Anyway, just after that, we started to notice DE on the bottom of the spa. We mentioned it to the head guy (you have to track him down and hope he calls back) who said he'd check on it. A few weeks later he reported that we needed a repair. I said fine, what's the repair and how much. A few days pass. Was told that the backwash valve needed a washer and needed to be rebuilt. OK, how much? Never did get a response.
In the meantime, interviewed new pool company. Head of company comes out. He says very unlikely it's a problem with the valve, must be a problem with filter elements. I watch as he takes the tank apart. It's full of gunk and DE and he estimates it hasn't been cleaned in at least a year, if not more. Anyway, there we spot the problem. The manifold is cracked in several places. Worse, on 6 of the 8 elements, the end of the plastic tube that runs down the center of each element, the part which inserts into the manifold, is cracked badly or broken off entirely. On the 7th one, the tube snaps off easily in my hand when I press it. He hoses off the screens, and the mesh is in perfect shape. Bottom line is, I need at least 7 new filter elements and a manifold on a filter that's only three years old. By the way, I live in So Cal, so the filter runs year round, if that matters.
So now I go check my warranty. It's a very deceptive document. It says "10 Year" in a big, bold "seal" effect and even in the fine print, the words "TEN YEARS" are the only ones that are all caps. Only when one reads very carefully, do you discover that the "TEN YEARS" only applies to the tank body. And even that is prorated after the first year based on list price. Everything else has a "one year" warranty. So the warranty is essentially worthless.
So now my question: Has anyone here had experience with a similar situation, or aware of one? Does anyone know if this apparent defect is wide-spread, or am I just "lucky." Does anyone know if Hayward will make good on this? I plan to call them and the dealer who sold it to me, but I just thought some G2 first would be helpful if anyone knows. Based on this experience, unless I get a lot of TLC from Hayward, I don't ever plan to buy their products again and don't recommend you do. Thanks in advance for any help.
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