Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Ltd. Co has dropped out of the first Chinese drywall trial currently underway in New Orleans. Knauf was not actually a defendant in the lawsuit being heard, but had volunteered to be the intervening manufacturer on behalf of Chinese-government-owned Taishan Gypsum Co. Taishan has been a no show at proceedings, and has not responded to any Chinese drywall lawsuits.
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.
The trial currently underway in New Orleans is considered a bellwether, or test case. It 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.
The Virginian-Pilot is reporting that in a ruling earlier this month, Judge Fallon ruled that Knauf’s proposal to use retrofitted air conditioners as a way to help fix the homes was not reliable and that expert testimony about their use would not be considered at trial. In another decision dated February 12, Judge Fallon ruled against another part of Knauf’s plan, which appears to include using an X-ray device to determine whether walls are tainted, enabling remediators to remove just the bad wallboard. The judge’s decisions prompted Knauf to withdraw from the case just a day before it was scheduled to go to trial.
According to News-Press.com, Judge Fallon will proceed with the case, but there will be no defense cross-examination and no defense witnesses because of Knauf’s decision to withdraw. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits will argue that homes with defective drywall must be gutted, with all drywall, fixtures, wires and pipes removed and replaced.
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.