Chinese drywall will be on President Barack Obama’s agenda when he makes his first state visit to China, according to one U.S. Senator. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, said on Friday that he would like Obama to directly discuss the Chinese drywall issue with Chinese President Hu Jintao, but would consider staff-level discussions of the topic to be satisfactory.
The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has received about 1,897 reports from residents in 30 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico concerning 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. The drywall problems have forced many people out of their homes, and some families are dealing with the heavy financial burden of paying both rent and mortgage payments. Those unable to afford additional rent have no choice but to stay in their smelly â€“ and possibly hazardous â€“ homes.
According to the Sarasota-Herald Tribune, one of the companies suspected of manufacturing tainted drywall, Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd., is controlled by the Chinese government. As we reported previously, Taishan was recently hit with a default judgment by U.S. District Court Justice Eldon E. Fallon, who is overseeing the massive Chinese drywall litigation in federal court in Louisiana.
Earlier this year, Sen. Nelson traveled to China to discuss the drywall problem, but told the Herald-Tribune Chinese officials “basically blew me off’. But Sen. Nelson said the President may get a better response, because the Chinese appear to be taking the problem more seriously. The Senator said on Friday that he is “confident’ that Chinese drywall will be discussed at some point during next week’s state visit.
For its part, the Obama administration has not yet said if it will discuss the Chinese drywall problem next week. According to the Herald-Tribune, last month the administration’s National Security spokesperson said the White House would “see where we are on the issue in terms of a Chinese response at the time of the visit.”
Hundreds of Chinese drywall homeowners in the U.S. have filed lawsuits hoping to recover restitution from Chinese manufacturers for the damage done to their homes, but the process is proving difficult. Recently, another Chinese firm, Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., Ltd., offered to waive its rights under The Hague Convention for the Service of Process Abroad for homeowners who sign on to an omnibus class action lawsuit against the firm by December 2, 2009. The Hague Convention for the Service of Process Abroad requires claimants to pay approximately $15,000 per lawsuit, which allows for the translation of legal documents into Chinese and to have them presented to the appropriate authorities in China to obtain service on the Chinese drywall manufacturers. These requirements were a huge obstacle to claimants, and Knauf’s offer to waive them will greatly streamline the litigation process for plaintiffs who make the deadline.
To be eligible for the omnibus lawsuit, claimants must submit pictures or other proof that they have wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard in their homes by December 2, 2009. Any Chinese drywall homeowner interested in becoming a party to this lawsuit must start now by contacting an attorney and arranging to have their home inspected.
Parker Waichman LLP, the first law firm to file a federal Chinese drywall lawsuit, is offering assistance to any homeowner interested in joining the Knauf Plasterboard lawsuit. Free consultations are available through the firmâ€™s website at www.yourlawyer.com, or by calling 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).
The offer applies only to the consolidated federal litigation, not individual cases. The December 2 deadline is a hard deadline, and omnibus complaint will not be amended at a later date to add more people. Claimants will also face a second deadline â€“ December 14 â€“ by which time they must have filled out a profile form.