Residents of Louisiana, Florida, Virginia and at least twenty-nine other states have reported problems associated with the use of imported Chinese drywall. Reported problems include the emission of foul odors and physical damage to property. In addition, some homeowners have complained of health problems such as headaches, coughing and general respiratory problems.
Although U.S. government investigations into the Chinese drywall issue are ongoing, a recent U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (‘the Commission’) study identified a link between Chinese drywall and the corrosion of metal components in homes. As part of its ongoing investigation, the Commission has issued a precautionary fire alert.
Many affected homeowners have taken a proactive approach. In one U.S. District Court case in New Orleans, plaintiffs’ attorneys have requested that the court require Chinese drywall manufacturer Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. (‘Knauf’) to pay to restore an affected house to the condition that it was in before corrosive gases allegedly damaged property. Although Knauf’s attorney agreed that Knauf should remove the drywall from the affected home, the company’s attorney argued that Knauf should not be held responsible for the restoration of the home, questioning the claim that Chinese drywall corroded fixtures. According to one source, at least 2,100 people in the U.S. have sued in federal courts, claiming damage from Chinese-made drywall.
Moody’s Investors Service (‘Moody’s’) estimates that insurers’ claims and litigation costs associated with Chinese drywall will be significant. Nonetheless, the extent of these costs remains unclear. Liabilities will ultimately depend upon how courts rule in ongoing cases. Because reported Chinese drywall problems have been concentrated in Louisiana and Florida, concerned Louisiana homeowners should reference this blog in the future for updates. Alternatively, concerned homeowners may contact the Berniard Law Firm for immediate assistance.
Although Moody’s predicts that Chinese drywall will not become a major insurance liability like asbestos claims, some commentators have already begun to draw analogies. Asbestos is a fibrous material that was once commonly used in construction. However, as awareness began to spread that exposure to asbestos can lead to potentially life-threatening illnesses, injured plaintiffs began to sue asbestos manufacturers and suppliers. Asbestos litigation soon became the most expensive mass tort in U.S. history, involving the filing of hundreds of thousands of cases in federal courts. Asbestos cases are complicated by the fact that for some people, asbestos-related symptoms do not manifest themselves until years after exposure. Nonetheless, courts have held manufacturers and suppliers liable for asbestos-related injuries under tort theories of negligence and products liability. While Moody’s, again, notes that Chinese drywall will likely not reach the threshold and financial liability that asbestos has, the toxic wallboard is still a danger and a problem.
Prevailing plaintiffs have recovered compensatory damages, and in exceptional cases, punitive damages for asbestos related harms. The same will likely be true for those with Chinese drywall installed in their home. While the courts have still not ruled on cases involving the toxic import, it is important for those who believe they have the faulty wallboard in their home to have it checked out. By having a professional come and inspect the drywall used in your home, you can be best prepared for any future litigation that may come of it. Part of that preparation, though, involves getting the best legal representation you can.
For more information on our firm’s involvement with Chinese drywall litigation please contact us or check out our blog section dedicated to news and updates on the matter located here.