Another Chinese Drywall Lawsuit Filed in Florida

Florida builder South Kendall Construction has been named in a class action lawsuit over defective Chinese drywall.  The lawsuit was filed by a Homestead couple who claim the drywall has made their home in South Kendall’s Keys Gate development uninhabitable.

Over the past several months, owners of newer homes in South Florida have been complaining of drywall that smells like rotten eggs. In several cases, they have had to leave their home because the smell was so bad.  In addition to the putrid smell, many South Florida homeowners have reported problems with air conditioning and other systems that are likely related to the defective Chinese drywall.  Some spent hundreds – even thousands of dollars – to have air conditioning, pipes and wiring repaired.

Usually, drywall is manufactured in the United States, but a shortage between 2004 and 2006 prompted many builders to buy drywall from China.  Most of the reported problems stem from drywall imported from China during Florida’s construction boom years of 2004-2005.  Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China, a  subsidiary of German-based manufacturer Knauf Group, is the company at the focus of Florida’s drywall problems.

The plaintiffs involved in the latest drywall lawsuit purchased a $360,000 home in the Pine Isles portion of Keys Gate in January 2008, and moved in with their two children. They claim that drywall installed in their new home, and those of their neighbors, emits destructive and harmful toxins and renders the homes “essentially uninhabitable.”

On Thursday, the Florida Health Department said it has received 75 complaints of drywall problems, 8 in Miami-Dade County where Homestead is located.  According to a report in the South Florida Business Journal last month, many of the Miami-Dade drywall complaints came from Homestead’s Keys Gate development.   South Kendall has  acknowledged  that it did buy drywall from Knauf that was used in the development.

The Homestead lawsuit names both Knauf and South Kendall as defendants. Other defendants include Banner Supply Co. of Miami, exporter Rothchilt International, Keys Gate Realty and 10 other unnamed companies.

As we reported earlier, the Florida Health Department is currently conducting tests on some homes with the drywall.  Those results could be ready next month.  Last week, Lennar Homes, one of the builders who has acknowledged using the Chinese drywall, released its own test results.  Those tests, conducted last year by Environ International, found three sulfide gases – carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide and dimethyl sulfide.  Hydrogen sulfide, a particularly dangerous compound with a characteristic rotten-eggs smell, was not found in Environ’s air tests, but it was found in previous testing that the company conducted on the Chinese drywall itself.

The Homestead lawsuit is just one of several filed  because of the drywall.  Late last week,  the Bonita Springs law firm of Parker Waichman Alonso LLP filed a class action lawsuit against Knauf Plasterboard and others.  The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District court in Fort Myers, charges that the defendants negligently manufactured and sold the defective drywall, which was “unreasonably dangerous” in normal use because it caused corrosion to air-conditioning and electrical components, and caused coughing and irritation of sinuses, eyes and throats. It goes on to state that, “when combined with moisture in the air, these sulfur compounds create sulfuric acid.”

Lennar Homes has also sued Knauf and others over its drywall problems.

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