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Centerline Homes Named in Florida Chinese Drywall Lawsuit

Apr 28, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Another Florida builder is being targeted by a Chinese drywall lawsuit.  According to TCPalm.com,  Centerline Homes has been sued by the owners of a town home located in its Tradition neighborhood  in Port. St. Lucie.

More than 200 homeowners in Florida have filed complaints with the state health department over Chinese  drywall. The material reportedly emits sulfur fumes that fill homes with a “rotten eggs” odor. The fumes from the drywall have also been linked to corroding metals in many of the homes, and people living with the material have reported sinus and respiratory problems. Many residents have had to leave their homes because the Chinese drywall has made them unlivable, and some builders are scrambling to gut homes and replace the drywall.

Florida was the first state to report such problems with Chinese drywall. But over the past several months, it has become clear that the issue is a national one. Homeowners in other states, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina, have reported the odor, corrosion and health problems related to Chinese drywall. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. imported roughly 5 million square feet of drywall from China during the housing boom from 2004 to 2008. Estimates indicate the drywall may be in more than 100,000 homes.

According toTCPalm.com, Frank and Mark Gitto  claim that Chinese drywall  installed in their town  home in 2005 is the same  type responsible for the odors, corrosion problems, and health complaints experienced by other homeowners with the material. According to the lawsuit, even if the Chinese drywall in the town home isn’t defective, just the fact that it’s there has diminished its value, and the plaintiffs “are entitled to recover damages for that diminution," TCPalm reported.  

The Gitto lawsuit is just the latest to be filed over defective Chinese  drywall. At least 10 such lawsuits are pending before federal courts throughout the country:  Four in the Southern District of Florida; three in the Middle District of Florida; one in the Northern District of Florida, one in the Eastern District of Louisiana; and one in the Southern District of Ohio.  Next month, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is scheduled to hear oral argument on a motion  to consolidate all of the federal cases before one judge for coordinated pretrial litigation.

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation of the United States Courts was created in 1968. Since then, it has consolidated hundreds of thousands of lawsuits that involved high numbers of plaintiffs, including litigation over asbestos, breast implants and other matters. A multidistrict litigation (MDL) allows all cases to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses and the court. When lawsuits are consolidated as an MDL each retains its own identity. If the MDL process does not resolve the cases, they are transferred back to the court where they originated for trial.


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