Chinese Drywall Trials to be Fast-TrackedJul 27, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
Some of the many Chinese drywall lawsuits might be seeing a courtroom in as early as six months. The HeraldTribune.com reported that prominent Judge Eldon E. Fallon, who is overseeing “the combined litigation” taking place in New Orleans, is preparing to announce the legal leads for both sides-—so-called “steering committees”—said the HeraldTribune.com.
The HeraldTribune.com noted that Judge Fallon is best known for his handling of the recent Vioxx litigation. "He is the guru among all federal judges for handling MDLs fast, quick and fairly to both sides," said a New Orleans attorney who argued the Vioxx case before Fallon. "The defendants respect him as much as the plaintiffs do. He doesn't tip the scale in any direction, and he gets the job done," quoted the HeraldTribune.com. An MDL is a Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, simply, a group of federal judges, explained the HeraldTribune.com. All Chinese drywall litigation nationwide is part of what is now MDL-2047, with Fallon presiding, explained the HeraldTribune.com.
The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has received more than 681 complaints from residents of 20 states regarding Chinese drywall; the majority—510—originated from Florida. Homeowners have complained that fumes from the Chinese drywall produce a “rotten eggs” odor that permeates their homes, and causes metal, including air conditioning coils and even jewelry, to corrode. Eye irritation, sinus problems, and respiratory symptoms have also been reported among people living in homes containing Chinese drywall.
Test recently conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that Chinese-manufactured drywall contained elevated levels of strontium sulfide, as well as several organic compounds associated with the production of acrylic paint and not present in samples of U.S.-made drywall. Recently, concerns have arisen that some Chinese drywall could be radioactive. According to an LA Times investigation, some Chinese drywall manufacturers used phosphogypsum—a radioactive phosphorous substance—to manufacture wallboard. At least four manufacturers told the Times that drywall made with phosphogypsum was shipped to the U.S. in 2006. Phosphogypsum contains radium, which, over time, can increase lung cancer risks. Phosphogypsum has been banned in the U.S. for use in construction since 1989.
The HeraldTribune.com also noted that the court is looking for agreed guidelines for inspections of impacted homes, with the inspections to follow in a month of the guidelines being set. Fallon’s court held its first "status conference" with dozens of attorneys. Fallon also said he is starting "bellwether trials"—ten initial cases to initiate discovery with five chosen for trial—within six months, said the HeraldTribune.com.
Recently, we wrote that Chinese drywall victims should very careful about remediation done on their homes, citing a warning from a leading forensic investigator. Remediation protocols have yet to be established, and if not done correctly or adequately, remediation of homes with Chinese drywall could lead to even more problems. The warning follows another caution about remediation issued by Parker Waichman LLP this month, the Bonita Springs law firm that filed the first Chinese drywall lawsuit in federal court. The firm said it had been hearing from Chinese drywall victims who had been harassed by builders into signing unfair, one-side remediation agreements.