Chinese Drywall Lawsuits, Investigation Make Major ProgressNov 24, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
There have been some important Chinese drywall developments in recent days. A date has been chosen for the first federal trial involving Chinese drywall lawsuits, and federal regulators have finally tied the tainted wallboard to corrosion seen in homes. What's more, an important deadline for filing a lawsuit against a major Chinese drywall manufacturer is just days away.
U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon, who is overseeing the massive Chinese drywall litigation currently underway in New Orleans, has scheduled the first trial for January 25, 2010. Seven Virginia homes built with drywall manufactured by Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd., a company controlled by the Chinese government, will be the focus of the trial. Earlier this fall, Taishan was issued a default judgment by Judge Fallon for failing to respond to Chinese drywall lawsuits.
In the days leading up to the trial, lawyers for both sides will be assessing the homes to determine a remediation protocol and evaluate the cost of repairs. Judge Fallon will then make a ruling on how much Taishan is responsible for paying. That determination could be used to determine damages in other Chinese drywall lawsuits.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and other federal regulators are now working on establishing remediation and testing protocols for Chinese drywall homes, following yesterday's release of a report linking corrosion in homes to the Chinese drywall. In its report, the CPSC said that its major indoor air study of 51 homes, along with initial reports from two studies of corrosion in homes with Chinese drywall, confirmed that the presence of hydrogen sulfide is the essential component that causes copper and silver sulfide corrosion found in complaint homes.
The study also found elevated formaldehyde readings in both control and complaint homes. The CPSC pointed out that this is typical for new, more air-tight homes due to items such as cabinets and carpets which emit formaldehyde. Both formaldehyde and hydrogen sulfide are known irritants at sufficiently high levels. While the concentrations measured in this study were below those levels, the CPSC said investigators believe that the additive or synergistic effects of these and other compounds in the subject homes could cause irritant effects seen in the homes.
The CPSC is still trying to determine the long-term hazards posed by the contaminated drywall. The Sandia National Laboratories’ Materials and Engineering Center is studying the long-term electrical safety hazards of conductor metal components. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is studying the corrosion effects on fire safety components taken from complaint homes. The agency said these ongoing investigations will help identify any association between Chinese drywall and long term safety issues.
Finally, a final deadline for joining a Chinese drywall class action lawsuit against Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., Ltd., one of the biggest importers of drywall to the U.S., has been set for next Wednesday, December 2. Knauf has agreed to waive its rights under The Hague Convention for the Service of Process Abroad, which sets onerous requirements for plaintiffs involved in international lawsuits, for claimants who join an omnibus class action lawsuit by December 2. The lawsuit itself will be filed by December 9, 2009.
This agreement will greatly streamline the litigation process for claimants whose homes contain wallboard manufactured by Knauf if they make the deadline. However, the December 2 date is a hard deadline, and the omnibus complaint will not be amended at a later date to add more people. 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).