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Robert Trigaux

Tainted Chinese drywall: regulators, judges, lawyers moving into fast(er) lane



ChinesedrywallapParklandmaryannschultheis Wake up and good morning. With thousands of houses in Florida and other states tainted by nasty sulfur-emitting and corrosive drywall from China, the "what to do about it" effort seems to be entering a second phase. About time. That liability explains why Florida houses with tainted drywall are selling for as little as $19,000 in Cape Coral. (AP photo of Mary Ann Schulteis's South Florida home with corroded copper tubes in air conditioning.) Consider:

1) U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission officials plan to visit several sites in China later this month to investigate problems with imported drywall that was manufactured there. Agency officials also have started indoor air sampling in 50 homes and visited a synthetic drywall manufacturing plant in Florida as part of their investigation. Chinese officials earlier accompanied U.S. officials in visits to some affected homes in Florida and Louisiana, the Wall Street Journal reports. More details here and here.

2) New legislation could make it easier for homeowners with defective Chinese drywall to take the manufacturer to court, the Miami Herald reports. The Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2009 attempts to make it easier to bring foreign companies before an American court. Legal analysts say current laws contain so many loopholes that foreign manufacturers of shoddy equipment are rarely penalized by the legal system. The bill would require foreign manufacturers to retain a business representative in at least one state where it does significant business and who could be served with a lawsuit. More details here.

3) A federal judge in New Orleans wants to fast-track a handful of cases for trial. According to the Daily Business Review, the first of these bellwether lawsuits could be tried by the end of the year, a timetable that encourages homeowners to think settlement. In contrast, drywall maker and defendant Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin welcomes home inspections and is investigating "practical solutions" but denies any health effects from its drywall. About 600 tainted Chinese drywall lawsuits have been consolidatedin multidistrict litigation under U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon for pretrial issues. With the help of plaintiff and defense steering committees, Fallon will select five cases to test the waters. More details here.

4) Couldn't resist this tale from Port St. Lucie on Florida's east coast. Tainted drywall homeowner Larry Kosakowski got so frustrated that he called the White House and left a message asking President Obama to listen to his plight. "My whole reason is awareness," said Kosakowski. "And what I'm really hoping for out of the federal government is to urge the banks to cooperate." He said he will soon have to leave while the drywall is remediated. He said like many Floridians he can't afford his mortgage and rent. The full story is here.

--- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:25am]


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