First Contested Chinese Drywall Trial BeginsMar 18, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP
The federal judge overseeing the massive Chinese drywall litigation in New Orleans heard opening statements in its first contested trial. The plaintiffs' attorney told Judge Eldon E. Fallon that Chinese drywall had turned the dream of home ownership into a nightmare for his clients.
This first case is intended as a bellwether, or test trail, to help determine property damage issues in other cases against manufacturers.
It names Knauf Gips and Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. as lead defendants. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Tatum and Charlene Hernandez of Mandeville, Louisiana. The case is being heard by Judge Fallon without a jury.
While defendant Knauf acknowledges that its drywall was defective, the company disputes the amount of money the Hernandez family is seeking for remediation. According to a report in Business Week, all parties in the suit agree on the need for removing and replacing drywall, moldings, carpets, a granite countertop and electrical switches and outlets. Other claims, such as wiring, appliances and personal property and the cost of repairs are in dispute.
It will be up to Judge Fallon to determine the nature and the scope of the remediation and the cost of repairs. Questions of health issues from the drywall will be handled in a later phase of the litigation.
Since late 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has received about 3,000 reports from residents in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico regarding defective 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.
More than 2,000 families have claims pending in the Chinese drywall multidistrict litigation before Judge Fallon. A decision on what needs to be done to fix the Hernandez home and how much it will cost could help establish values that will guide settlement discussions in the rest of the cases.