Florida's Chinese Drywall Problems Go Back at Least 3 YearsFeb 9, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
Problems with defective Chinese drywall may have been plaguing Florida homeowners longer than first thought. According to a report in the South Florida Business Journal, some builders in Florida have been quietly settling complaints over defective Chinese drywall for the past three years.
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. Another Chinese drywall maker, Taishan Gypsum, has also been implicated.
The drywall problems have sparked several lawsuits. Late last month, the Bonita Springs law firm of Parker Waichman LLP filed a class action lawsuit against Knauf Plasterboard, Taishan 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, one of the biggest builders in Florida, has also sued Knauf and Taishan because of 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.
Lennar recently released its own test results of the Chinese drywall. 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. The Florida Health Department is also conducting tests, and results are expected next month.
According to an attorney interviewed by the South Florida Business Times, "a number of developers throughout South Florida have experienced problems over the last couple years." The lawyer told the Business Times that builders probably weren’t required to notify all their customers of the potential problem.
According to the report, only Lennar has provided details about its handling of drywall complaints. The company told the Business Times that it dealt with problems as homeowners brought them to its attention. However, Lennar is not saying how other homeowners were notified of the problem.
As we reported last month, Lennar had issued a statement that said it intends to replace damaged fixtures in the homes, which could include plumbing, electrical wiring and air conditioning systems. At the time, the builder said it had 80 of its homes in Southwest Florida that appear to contain the suspect drywall and is investigating 40 more, news-press.com said. About 30 of the 80 Lennar homes confirmed to have the drywall are in Lennar’s Heritage Harbor development in east Manatee County.
According to the Business Times another builder, WCI Communities, has also acknowledge the drywall problem. The company, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, said in a January 28 filing that it believes “drywall manufactured in China may have been installed in certain portions of some homes that were built and sold prior to the Chapter 11 filing.” WCI has not revealed which of its developments are affected and whether homeowners in those communities were notified, the Business Times said.
Only one other builder, South Kendall Construction, has reported drywall problems, according to the Business Times. Most of those complaints center on its Keys Gate community in Homestead.
As we reported last week, Florida's Lieutenant Governor has also said his Fort Meyers home, built by Aubuchon Homes, was built with defective Chinese drywall.