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Defective Chinese Drywall Used in Florida Lieutenant Governor's Home

Feb 4, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Florida's Lieutenant Governor is just one of many homeowners in the state dealing with defective Chinese drywall.  According to a report on NBC2News.com,  Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp is warning others who suspect they have a drywall problem to have the air in their homes tested.

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.

According to NBC2News.com, Kottkamp's home in Fort Meyers was built with the defective Chinese drywall.  The home was Aubuchon homes, which incidentally, is owned by Gary Aubuchon.  Aubuchon was appointed to Kottkamps's seat in the Florida state house when he became Lieutenant Governor, NBC2News.com said.

Kottkamp told NBC2News.com that an investigation is needed to determine how suppliers ended up with the drywall.  He also said the drywall problems show a need for tougher standards on either the federal or state level.  Finally, he urged other Florida homeowners experiencing smells or other problems in their homes to have them tested.

"You should have your home tested. Have the air tested, have the drywall tested to see if there is any health risk at all. God willing, there isn't," Kottkamp told NBC2News.com.

As we reported earlier, the Florida Health Department is currently conducting tests on some homes with the drywall.  Those results could be ready next month.  Last week, Lennar Homes, one of the builders who has acknowledged using the Chinese drywall, released its own test results.  Those tests, conducted last year by Environ International, found three sulfide gases - carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide and dimethyl sulfide.  Hydrogen sulfide, a particularly dangerous compound with a characteristic rotten-eggs smell, was not found in Environ’s air tests, but it was found in previous testing that the company conducted on the Chinese drywall itself.

Lennar admitted that the gases the test found could be responsible for the corrosion problems in many of the homes.  But the company has maintained that the tests showed the levels of fumes were below what would be considered a health hazard.  However, many people have voiced doubts over that claim.

At least on class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Florida homeowners whose homes have been ruined by defective Chinese drywall.  Late last week,  the Bonita Springs law firm of Parker Waichman LLP filed a class action lawsuit against Knauf Plasterboard and others.  The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District court in Fort Myers, charges that the 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 and others over its drywall problems.  


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