NEW ORLEANS — More than a year after suing the Cabinet agency that oversees China's biggest state-owned companies, lawyers for people who say their homes were ruined by drywall made in China are still trying to get the lawsuit served on the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.
And six other defendants — sued, like the Cabinet agency, as parents of the company that made the drywall — say they're shielded because they're Chinese government agencies.
"China interprets its obligations under (Hague conventions — the standard international protocols for serving legal papers and getting evidence) in a manner that effectively protects Chinese firms from U.S. litigation," wrote Kevin Rosier, a senior policy analyst with the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon is considering damages for as many as 4,000 homeowners who say sulfur emissions from drywall made by Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd. ruined their homes and belongings. Damages could be well over $1 billion, say attorneys for plaintiffs in Virginia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Earlier this year, Taishan paid seven Virginia homeowners and their attorneys $2.7 million plus about $500,000 interest. Fallon heard arguments earlier this year about whether those figures can form the basis for awards in a class-action lawsuit.
Fallon also recently ruled that the homeowners' attorneys may go through diplomatic channels — viewed as a last option — to serve the lawsuit on the Cabinet agency, which supervises China's 117 biggest state-owned energy, manufacturing and other enterprises, including China National Petroleum Corp., China Mobile Ltd., and Air China Ltd.