At least 3,000 Chinese drywall victims have joined lawsuits over the defective wallboard, according to a report on Law360.com. That includes nearly 2100 plaintiffs in an omnibus class action lawsuit filed against Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. and 600 other defendants last week.
Most pending Chinese drywall lawsuits, including the omnibus class action against Knauf Plasterboard, have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana that is being overseen by Judge Eldon E. Fallon. As we’ve reported previously, Judge Fallon is a veteran of such mass litigation, having overseen the settlement of lawsuits filed against Merck & Co. involving Vioxx.
The Knauf omnibus class action lawsuit was the result of an agreement between the company and Judge Fallon. Knauf had agreed to waive its rights under the rules of international litigation in The Hague for any Chinese drywall claimants who signed onto the omnibus lawsuit by December 2. We reported previously that New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton is the lead plaintiff on the Knauf lawsuit.
According to Law360.com, Chinese drywall lawsuits allege that sulfur levels in the wallboard are abnormally high, causing problems with air conditioning systems, appliances, internal wiring and other electrical systems. Plaintiffs also allege that the Chinese drywall produces a foul odor and causes a variety of respiratory and other health problems for those who live in the affected homes.
It is estimated that as many as 40,000 homes nationwide could contain Chinese-made wallboard. Tests released last month by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) of 51 homes confirmed that the presence of hydrogen sulfide is the essential component that causes copper and silver sulfide corrosion found in Chinese drywall homes. The CPSC is still trying to determine if the Chinese drywall poses any long-term health risks or other hazards.
Bellwether trials are expected to begin in the Chinese drywall litigation in January. The first will involve a set of cases from Virginia, and another Chinese firm, Taishan Gyspum, which is actually controlled by the Chinese government. As we reported earlier this year, Judge Fallon has already issued a default judgment against Taishan for failing to respond to lawsuits.