The combination of a thriving real estate market and a series of major hurricanes has led to another catastrophe. The use of Chinese drywall by construction companies and homeowners now appears to have caused products liability damages reaching far into the millions of dollars.
There are currently several thousand Chinese drywall-related cases in progress, some in state courts, and others in federal court. The federal cases have been consolidated and are being heard in front of a federal district court judge in New Orleans. At least two federal cases have been successful, and a number of state court trials may begin in Florida this June.
The problems began with approximately 500 million pounds of drywall imported from China to ease shortages caused by rapid expansion in the home construction industry and by the need to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes striking the Gulf Coast and Florida.
Before long, it was discovered that the Chinese drywall contained harmful chemicals, including sulfur, that when exposed to heat or moisture, released strong odors and gases that could cause respiratory problems and corrosion of electrical wires and other pipes. The resulting damage to a home can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars for an individual homeowner.
One significant problem for homeowners arising out of this defective product is that it is not easy to determine if the drywall used in your home contains the dangerous chemical ingredients. Although there may be a certain odor associated with the product, the most reliable way of determining if you have a problem is watching for corrosion of wires or pipes.
A second problem faced by victims is the potential for difficulty in recovery compensation from the foreign corporation. While some of the U.S. distributors or construction companies may also be held liable in a products liability suit, forcing a foreign corporation to make good on judgments from U.S. courts may be problematic. If a settlement is ultimately reached in the matter, that may provide victims with a more sure source of compensation.
As the current and future cases progress through the courts, we are sure to get a clearer picture of the total damages caused by the defective drywall. We will update this story as more news become available over the next weeks and months.
Mass Torts Gain Traction (Broward Daily Business Review)