Chinese Drywall Symposium Set

Following an announcement this week regarding Chinese drywall litigation, the Miami Herald just announced that Florida State is sponsoring The Technical Symposium on Corrosive Imported Drywall to discuss the problem. The Symposium is scheduled in Tampa for Thursday and Friday.

The prior announcement—a one-time offer made by Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., Ltd.—is expected to do much to streamline the process for suing the major drywall manufacturer. As we wrote, to take advantage of this one time offer, Chinese drywall claimants must sign on to an omnibus class action lawsuit by December 2, 2009.

According to an earlier New Orleans Times-Picayune article, Knauf Plasterboard has agreed not to demand 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 December 2 deadline for filing is a hard deadline; there will be no second chances and 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.

It seems that the gypsum in drywall, which typically comes from mines, has recently come from a chemical process involving lime or limestone and gas from coal-fired power plants. Contaminants and sulfur found in power plant smokestacks are supposed to be removed in the process. Failure of proper removal is the cause of foul odors, respiratory complaints, and corrosion, according to some Chinese experts in building supplies. Others say phosphogypsum (calcium sulfate), a radioactive phosphorus substance, is to blame. Banned for use in U.S. construction in 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says prolonged exposure to this radium-contained element can lead to a higher risk of lung cancer.

To be eligible for the lawsuit, claimants must submit pictures or other proof that they have wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard in their homes. 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 firm’s website at <"">, or by calling 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).

Previously, Knauf Plasterboard 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.
Federal litigation involving defective drywall products has been consolidated in the multidistrict litigation, MDL 2047, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, before Judge Eldon E. Fallon. The offer applies to the consolidated federal litigation, not individual cases.

Experts from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others, will be in attendance at the Tampa Symposium to discuss drywall research and possible remedies, said the Miami Herald.

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