Chinese Drywall Problems Could Extend Beyond FloridaFeb 17, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
The true extent of South Florida's Chinese drywall problem is not entirely known. According to a report on BrandentonHerald.com, 313 million pounds of Chinese drywall entered Florida in 2006. How much of that may have been defective is anybody's guess. The number of complaints filed by Florida homeowners continues to grow, and at least one consumer advocacy group has now reported complaints about defective Chinese drywall in several other states.
Over the past several months, owners of newer homes in South Florida have been complaining of drywall that smells like rotten eggs. In several cases, they have had to leave their home because the smell was so bad. In addition to the putrid smell, many South Florida homeowners have reported problems with air conditioning and other systems that are likely related to the defective Chinese drywall. Some spent hundreds - even thousands of dollars - to have air conditioning, pipes and wiring repaired.
Usually, drywall is manufactured in the United States, but a shortage between 2004 and 2006 prompted many builders to buy drywall from China. Most of the reported problems stem from drywall imported from China during Florida’s construction boom years of 2004-2005. Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China, a subsidiary of German-based manufacturer Knauf Group, is the company at the focus of Florida’s drywall problems.
Last month, Lennar Homes, one of the builders who has acknowledged using the Chinese drywall, said air quality tests it commissioned found that the material was emitting three sulfide gases that were likely causing the smell and corrosion problems - carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide and dimethyl sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide, a particularly dangerous compound with a characteristic rotten-eggs smell, was not found in Lennar's air tests, but it was found in previous testing that the company conducted on the Chinese drywall itself.
The Florida Health Department is conducting its own tests, and results from those should be available next month.
According to BradentonHerald.com, the Florida Health Department has so far received 86 complaints regarding defective Chinese drywall. The complaints come from 14 counties, including Manatee, Sarasota, Lee, St. Lucie, Pinellas, Collier, Dade, Citrus, Lake, Hillsborough, Highlands, Palm Beach and Broward, the Web site said.
But Florida might not be the only state affected. The head of one consumer advocacy group told BradentonHerald.com that it has received drywall complaints from homeowners in Michigan, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Maryland, North and South Carolina, New York and New Jersey. Given the amount of Chinese drywall that has been imported to the U.S. since 2004, the group estimates that the problem could affect as many as 10,000 Florida homes, and thousands more nationwide, BradentonHerald.com said.
The drywall problems have sparked a number of lawsuits, including a class action complaint filed by, the Bonita Springs law firm of Parker Waichman LLP. The lawsuit, which was filed late last month in U.S. District court in Fort Myers, charges that Knauf and other defendants negligently manufactured and sold the defective drywall, which was “unreasonably dangerous” in normal use because it caused corrosion to air-conditioning and electrical components, and caused coughing and irritation of sinuses, eyes and throats. It goes on to state that, “when combined with moisture in the air, these sulfur compounds create sulfuric acid."
Lennar Homes has also sued Knauf over the drywall issue. The Lennar lawsuit also charges 12 installers with breach of contract and breach of express and implied warranty. Lennar claimed that independent subcontractors installed the defective Chinese drywall in some homes, and it was unaware it was being used.