A significant breakthrough in Chinese drywall litigation was announced this week that will do much to streamline the process for suing a major drywall manufacturer. To take advantage of this one time offer made by Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., Ltd., Chinese drywall claimants must sign on to an omnibus class action lawsuit by December 2, 2009.
According to The New Orleans Times- Picayune, Knauf Plasterboard has agreed not to demand that plaintiffs included in that lawsuit abide by international rules in serving legal papers. Under the agreement, the omnibus lawsuit must be filed by December 9.
The Times-Picayune pointed out that the Dec. 2 deadline for filing is a hard deadline, so there will be no second chances. The omnibus complaint will not be amended at a later date to add more people. Claimants will also face a second deadline – December 14 – by which time they must have filled out a profile form.
To be eligible for the lawsuit, claimants must submit pictures or other proof that they have wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard in their homes. So any Chinese drywall homeowner interested in becoming a party to this lawsuit needs to get the ball rolling now by contacting an attorney and arranging to have their home inspected. Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, the first law firm to file a federal Chinese drywall lawsuit, is offering assistance to any homeowner interested in joining the Knauf Plasterboard lawsuit. Free consultations are available through the firmâ€™s website at www.yourlawyer.com, or by calling 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).
Previously, Knauf Plasterboard had required that service of process of any lawsuit be made through the Hague Convention, which sets forth the method for the service of process abroad. This had been a major obstacle to many Chinese drywall plaintiffs because The Hague Convention for the Service of Process Abroad requires claimants to pay approximately $15,000 per lawsuit, which allows for the translation of legal documents into Chinese and to have them presented to the appropriate authorities in China to obtain service on the Chinese drywall manufacturers.
An attorney representing Knauf Plasterboard told the Times-Picayune that the firm decided to waive the international rules in order to get a handle on the scope of the Chinese drywall claims it is facing. The company also hopes its action will spur other drywall manufacturers to take similar steps.
All federal litigation involving defective drywall products has been consolidated in the multidistrict litigation, MDL 2047, pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, before Judge Eldon E. Fallon. Judge Fallon announced the agreement with Knauf Plasterboard yesterday. The offer applies only to the consolidated federal litigation, not individual cases.