$2.4 Million Verdict in One Chinese Drywall Suit, Settlements Reported in Two Others

A Florida jury has awarded plaintiffs in a Chinese drywall lawsuit more than $2 million for damage done to their home. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, two Chinese drywall lawsuits filed against Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. were dismissed, after the manufacturer settled with plaintiffs.

The Florida verdict was handed down last Friday by a Miami-Dade Circuit Court jury, in what was the first U.S. jury trial to involve defective Chinese drywall. The jury found that Miami-based Banner Supply Co. was 55 percent responsible for damage done to the home of Armin and Lisa Seifart, and awarded them $2.4 million.

Knauf, which was not included in the suit, was deemed 35 percent responsible.

The two lawsuit settled by Knauf were part of a multidistrict litigation underway in federal court in New Orleans. More than 2,100 people in the U.S. have sued in federal court claiming damages from drywall made in China. The litigation involves about 1,000 defendants.

According to BusinessWeek, the two suits were brought by Paul Clement and Celeste Schexnaydre and by John Campbell, who own real estate near New Orleans and in Gulf Shores, Alabama, that they claimed had been tainted by contaminated drywall that can cause health problems. They were among 2,000 plaintiffs included in lass action suit filed in December 2009 against Knauf by New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, and his wife. The Paytons have claimed that Knauf drywall ruined their Mandeville, Louisiana home.

The two lawsuits were to be among the first to go to trial in the multidistrict litigation, and were to be used as a benchmark for property damage in other cases.

Terms of the two agreements weren’t immediately filed following a settlement conference Friday before U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon, who is overseeing the massive litigation. According to BusinessWeek, Judge Fallon may discuss the effect of the settlements on pending cases at a regular monthly status conference for the multidistrict litigation on June 24.

Since late 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has received more than 3,000 reports from residents in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico regarding defective Chinese drywall. Gases emitted from Chinese drywall are being blamed for significant property damage, including damage to HVAC systems, smoke detectors, electrical wiring, metal plumbing components, and other household appliances. These gases also produce a sulfurous odor that permeates homes, and cause metals, including air conditioning coils and even jewelry, to corrode. People living with Chinese drywall have also suffered eye, respiratory and sinus problems that may be linked to the gases.

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