First Federal Chinese Drywall Trial Set to Start

The first Chinese drywall trial will finally open today in a New Orleans federal courtroom. The case involves seven Virginia plaintiffs whose homes have drywall manufactured by China-based Taishan Gypsum Co.

Since late 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has received about 2,833 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.

The drywall problems have forced many people out of their homes, and some families are dealing with the heavy financial burden of paying both rent and mortgage payments. Those unable to afford additional rent have no choice but to stay in their potentially hazardous homes. Homeowners insurance does not cover damage from Chinese drywall, and builders have estimated that remediating a home with Chinese drywall could cost as much as $100,000.

At least 3,000 people from across the country have filed suit over defective Chinese drywall. All of the Chinese drywall lawsuits filed in federal courts have been consolidated in the US District Court in New Orleans under Judge Eldon E. Fallon as part of a multidistrict litigation.

According to a report in the South Florida Business Journal, the trial scheduled to begin today in New Orleans is expected to set a minimum threshold for fixing homes where defective drywall was installed. Blame is not at issue in this case because a default judgment has already been issued against Taishan Gypsum for failing to respond to lawsuits.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuits will argue that homes with defective drywall must be gutted, with all drywall, fixtures, wires and pipes removed and replaced. By contrast, court papers submitted by Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, another major drywall manufacturer, assert that “a proven combination of mature technologies, dehumidification, conditioning tand filtration … fix the problems associate with Chinese drywall in houses.”

A plaintiffs’ attorney told the South Florida Business Journal that Knauf’s proposed solution is inadequate, and amounts to ” a Band-Aid to fix cancer.”

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