Progress in Chinese Drywall Litigation

The Chinese drywall litigation is moving along, with the first bellwether trials expected to begin in January. Inspections of about thirty homes alleged to have been built with Chinese drywall are slated to begin in the coming days.

Consumers in 24 states have filed a total of 1,174 Chinese drywall complaints with the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Gases emitted from the 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.

Hundreds of Chinese drywall cases from around the country have been consolidated in a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana. According to the Associated Press, Judge Eldon E. Fallon, a veteran of such mass litigation, said Thursday that he wants attorneys to pick six plaintiffs whose cases could be tried in early 2010, with the first trial starting in January. The first trials will be limited to damage claims, and will not include personal injury suits involving the drywall’s possible health affects, the Associated Press.

A lead defense attorney involved in the litigation said that side might need more time to prepare. However, the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer said he supports the Judge’s scheduling plan, the Associated Press said.

Of the thirty properties scheduled for inspection, 15 are in Florida, eight are in Louisiana, four are in Mississippi, and one each are in Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia, the Associated Press said. Judge Fallon said yesterday that protocols could be “tweaked” following these inspections. Once the initial 30 are done, another 1000 home inspections will be conducted.

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