The Chinese drywall crisis, and the litigation surrounding it, is set to enter a new phase this month. With potential plaintiffs in Chinese drywall lawsuits facing an important deadline in a few weeks, a federal judge will soon be scheduling the first lawsuits for trial. And in the coming weeks, federal investigators should know more about the what, if any, safety hazards, the corrosion blamed on Chinese drywall fumes may pose.
By December 2, any Chinese drywall victim whose home was built with wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., Ltd. needs to join the omnibus Chinese drywall lawsuit against the company that will be filed on December 9. Knauf has agreed to waive its rights under The Hague Convention for the Service of Process Abroad for homeowners who sign on to this lawsuit by the deadline. The December 2 deadline is a hard deadline, and the omnibus complaint will not be amended at a later date to add more people. Claimants will also face a second deadline â€“ December 14 â€“ by which time they must have filled out a profile form.
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. These requirements were a huge obstacle to claimants, and Knaufâ€™s offer to waive them will greatly streamline the litigation process for plaintiffs who make the deadline.
To be eligible for the omnibus lawsuit, claimants must submit pictures or other proof that they have wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard in their homes by December 2, 2009. Any Chinese drywall homeowner interested in becoming a party to this lawsuit must start 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 <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/">www.yourlawyer.com, or by calling 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).
The agreement with Knauf was announced earlier this month by Judge Eldon E. Fallon, who is overseeing the consolidated Chinese drywall litigation (MDL 2047) currently underway in federal court in New Orleans. The offer applies only to the consolidated federal litigation, not individual cases.
Sometime this week, Judge Fallon is also expected to select the first Chinese drywall lawsuits that will go to trial. Judge Fallon has said that he wants the first Chinese drywall trial to start by January 10, 2010.
Finally, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is expected to issue more findings from its Chinese drywall investigation sometime this month. The next round of test results will address the corrosion of copper wires and other metals in homes with Chinese drywall – whether this is being caused by fumes from the wallboard, and whether the corrosion of wiring poses a fire hazard. The CPSC is also expected to release results of tests done on indoor-air samples collected from about 50 U.S. homes with Chinese drywall,
Late last month, the CPSC release the initial results of three studies that compared Chinese and domestic wallboard. Those tests revealed that samples from China emit volatile sulfur compounds at a higher rate, and contain higher levels of sulfur and strontium, than the American-made product. However, the CPSC still could not say if there was a direct link between the Chinese drywall and the health problems homeowners are reporting.