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Robert Trigaux

Led by Saints coach Payton, class action lawsuit aimed at tainted Chinese drywall maker



SeanPaytonNOSaintscoachAPBillHaber Wake up and good morning. The nucleus of the Chinese drywall fiasco shifted to Louisiana from Florida this week after New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton stepped up as lead plaintiff in a 591-page class action lawsuit against Knauf Plasterboard Tainjin Co. Ltd.The Chinese company manufactured drywall that is believed to be corroding homes and making people sick across Florida, Louisiana and numerous other states. (Payton photo: AP's Bill Harber.)

The Louisiana suit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on behalf of people with the Knauf brand of drywall, which is part of Germany-based drywall manufacturer Knauf Gips. More than 2,000 people signed up to be a part of the suit and another 600 were too late to get involved. Russ Herman, lead plaintiff counsel in the national litigation, said he plans to roll all of the late fliers into another complaint and file it overseas, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune. Here's the complete story.

What does this mean for affected Floridians? Because the three states with high incidents of defective Chinese drywall seek comparable damages against the same defendants, all federal suits filed in Florida, Alabama and Louisiana were elected for consolidation under one federal judge as multidistrict litigation.

According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune, the legal action paves the way for litigation against the manufacturer to move forward in the multi-district case being overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Eldon E. Fallon. A "bellwether" trial is scheduled for March in New Orleans against Knauf Tianjin. Fallon had directed the steering committee for the plaintiffs to pick one case to be used for the March trial -- the second of four initial "test" trials. Reports the Herald Tribune:

"Significant quantities of KPT's drywall came into New Orleans in 2006, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The company also sent large amounts to Florida that same year. A host of builders used (Knauf Plasterboard Tainjin) drywall in the Sarasota-Bradenton area, including Lennar Corp., Taylor Morrison and Lee Wetherington Homes."

In New Orleans, Saints coach Payton was reportedly selected as the lead plaintiff because he was among the first people in Louisiana to link news reports about bad drywall to televisions, computers and electrical equipment failing in his home and his family becoming ill. Here's a Payton news video interview about his home's damage.  As the Times Picayunereports, Payton was wealthy enough to relocate his family to their Florida beach house, while their home was systematically dismantled and photographed. Damaged components were stored in a warehouse, where Knauf was able to inspect it.

The Saints are undefeated this season. Let's see if Payton's winning touch extends to class-action litigation.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:26am]


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