Chinese Drywall Verdict Could Pave Way for More Relief

Homeowners grappling with Chinese drywall won big last week. Not only did the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and HUD call for the removal of Chinese drywall, but a federal judge in Louisiana ordered the Chinese firm Taishan Gypsum Co. to pay seven Virginia families a total of about $2.6 million dollars in damages so they can tear out the drywall as well as corroded household wiring and plumbing.

The verdict could pave the way for thousands of homeowners across the country to receive compensation for the drywall, which emits fumes and corrodes plumbing and wire.

Getting a foreign company to pay can be a challenge, but Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) pledged that "we're going to continue to push our government to insist to the Chinese government that they make these poor home owners whole." Sen. Nelson's spokesman pointed out that the drywall companies involved are either wholly-owned or partially-owned by the Chinese government.In making his ruling, federal Judge Eldon Fallon in the Eastern District of Louisiana, concluded, "The Court finds that scientific, economic, and practicality concerns dictate that the proper remediation... is to remove all drywall in their homes, all items which have suffered corrosion as a result of the Chinese drywall, and all items which will be materially damaged in the process of removal."

He found that the Chinese drywall has significantly higher levels of hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide and carbon disulfide -- all known irritants to humans. These are not found in "typical, benign drywall" Fallon ruled. He also found these sulfur gasses release strong odors and are known to corrode various metals.

The lawyers for the drywall victims, Christopher Seeger and Jeffrey Grand of Seeger Weiss LLP, called it a "bellwether" victory. "The message Judge Fallon's ruling sends to thousands of other homeowners who have been victimized is that help is finally coming – they will be made whole by the ravages of inferior Chinese drywall and will not have to bear the substantial costs of repairing their homes to get rid of it," said Seeger.

Mr. Seeger added that representatives from the CPSC observed the trial, which took place in February. "The CPSC has already adopted and publicly endorsed the position we argued at trial, which is that for their safety homeowners should remove the Chinese drywall and replace any system it has damaged, such as wiring or plumbing or sprinklers," Mr. Seeger explained. This case is "just the opening salvo in what we hope will be a national effort to make families whole again for having to live with this shoddy, corrosive and toxic gypsum material in their homes."

Seeger Weiss is also representing a Louisiana plaintiff who rebuilt his home with Taishan products after Hurricane Katrina and is now forced to renovate again. Mr Seeger called this "a double whammy that has hit many Gulf Coast residents trying to rebuild after a barrage of destructive storms." The firm represents a number of other Gulf region homeowners in a trial beginning in June.

All drywall cases are being heard in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Mr. Seeger was appointed by Judge Fallon to the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee and also chairs the Trial Committee, which directs the trial teams handling all Chinese drywall cases. Seeger Weiss estimates that 20,000 homes nationwide may have been built using Chinese drywall. You can get more information by calling Seeger Weiss at 888-584-0411.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including The 250 Questions Everyone Should Ask About Buying Foreclosures and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Bankruptcy.
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