Chinese Drywall Insurance Bill Proposed, Lawsuit Deadline NearsNov 18, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
A Chinese drywall bill just introduced in the U.S. Congress would prohibit insurers from dropping or changing policies on homes built with tainted Chinese drywall. According to The Bradenton Herald, the Chinese drywall insurance bill is being sponsored by Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La.
The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has received about 1,897 reports from residents in 30 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico concerning 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 smelly – and possibly hazardous – homes.
As if they didn't already face enough issues, some homeowners have reported that their insurance company dropped, altered or refused to renew coverage on their homes because of Chinese drywall. According to The Bradenton Herald, the proposed "Drywall Victim Insurance Protection Act" would make it illegal for insurers to cancel or not renew policies on single-family homes and condominium units based on the fact they contain or are suspected of containing drywall with certain characteristics, including wallboard that was manufactured in China from 2004 to 2007 or has elevated levels of sulfur or strontium.
Unfortunately, some experts told Bradenton Herald that the "Drywall Victim Insurance Protection Act" would not be very effective, even if it is passed and signed into law. That's because state, not federal, governments regulate insurance companies.
On another front, Chinese drywall victims whose homes were built with wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., Ltd. are running out of time to sign onto the omnibus Chinese drywall lawsuit against the company that will be filed on December 9. Knauf has agreed to waive its rights under The Hague Convention for the Service of Process Abroad for claimants who join this lawsuit by December 2. The Hague Convention for the Service of Process Abroad requirements were a huge obstacle to claimants, and Knauf’s offer to waive them will greatly streamline the litigation process for plaintiffs who make the deadline.
The December 2 deadline is a hard deadline, 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.
To be eligible for the omnibus lawsuit, claimants must submit pictures or other proof that they have wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard in their homes by December 2, 2009. 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 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 www.yourlawyer.com, or by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).