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- In a message dated 10/10/2009 9:23:16 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
NY times article on Drywall
Sat, 10 Oct 2009 12:16:16 -0400
$10 donated to the Palmer Eye institute for your opinion.. How can the
homeowners win in court? How do they prove their case against China? (A
country which can not be tried in the US). How does the homeowner prove it
happened during manufacturing and distributing when china does not have a problem
with their drywall?
October 8, 2009
Thousands of Homeowners Cite Drywall for Ills
By LESLIE WAYNE
When Bill Morgan, a retired policeman, moved into his newly built dream
home in Williamsburg, Va., three years ago, his hopes were quickly dashed.
His wife and daughter suffered constant nosebleeds and headaches. A
persistent foul odor filled the house. Every piece of metal indoors corroded or
In short order, Mr. Morgan moved out. The headaches and nosebleeds
stopped, but the ensuing financial problems pushed him into personal bankruptcy.
“My house is not worth the land it’s built on,” said Mr. Morgan, who
could not maintain the mortgage payments on his $383,000 home in a Williams
burg subdivision called Wellington Estates and the costs of a rental property
where his family decamped.
Mr. Morgan, like many other American homebuyers who tell similar tales of
woe, is blaming the drywall in his new home 9
4 specifically, drywall from China, imported during the housing boom to
meet heavy demand — that he says is contaminated with various sulfur
Hundreds of lawsuits are piling up in state and federal courts, and a
consolidated class action is moving forward in Louisiana before Judge Eldon E.
Fallon of Federal District Court, who will begin hearing cases in January.
Three hundred cases have been filed in Louisiana alone, many with similar
complaints from homeowners — a noxious smell, recurrent headaches and
difficulty breathing. In Florida, the health department has received over 500
complaints with such symptoms.
In addition, these suits say, metal objects in homes corrode quickly,
causing kitchen appliances, air-conditioners, televisions and plumbing to fail.
“There could be 60,000 to 100,000 homes that are worthless and have to be
ripped completely down and rebuilt,” said Arnold Levin, a Philadelphia
lawyer and co-chairman of the plaintiffs’ steering committee.
While tainted Chinese imports like toothpaste, pet food and baby formula
have been quickly removed from store shelves, drywall is installed
throughout homes and does not lend itself to a quick fix.
This month, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, whose investigation
into Chinese drywall is the largest in its history, will release the results
of a study to determine why the drywall is causing the problem, and what
kind of remediation programs might be effective.
Already, the commission has sent six investigators t
o Chinese gypsum mines and to meet with the government there. The Chinese
government’s counterpart to the federal safety commission sent two of its
experts here to inspect affected homes.
The commission is also making sure that no more Chinese drywall comes into
“Our ports are on alert,” said Inez Tenenbaum, chairwoman of the
commission. “They are not letting any in. The market, too, has corrected. No one
wants Chinese drywall.”
Even President Obama is being pressed by members of Congress to raise the
issue on his November trip to China — the loudest cry coming from Senator
Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, who has traveled to China on his own to
learn more about the drywall problems.
Investigators are finding that getting sci entific data, establishing
legal accountability and following a supply chain is difficult when so many
drywall sheets — millions in all were brought into the United States — were
simply marked “Made in China,” providing no clues to their actual source.
The drywall was brought in because United States supplies ran low, not as a
cost-saving measure for builders.
One target of the lawsuits is Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, a German company
with manufacturing plants in China that supplied about 20 percent of the
Chinese drywall brought into the United States.
Don Hayden, the company’s lawyer, said that its own toxicology tests from
affected homes showed that the drywall presented no health problems.20Even
so, he said his company was cooperating with American government
“Unlike other Chinese manufacturers, we are the only one to come to the
United States to address this problem,” said Mr. Hayden. “We’ve spent
considerable time and energy and hope that we can provide a workable solution to
U. S. homeowners.”
One puzzle is why problems have surfaced in the United States and not
Asia, where drywall was also sold. According to a safety commission official
who declined to be named because of the delicacy of the issue, a theory
offered by Chinese officials during their visit to the United States was that
American homes are more tightly built, with less ventilation than homes in
One drywall manufacturer, the Taishan Gypsum Company, which is controlled
by the Chinese government, was found to be in preliminary default last week
by a federal judge after the company failed to show up in court.
But whether the Florida builders who brought the class-action lawsuit
could ever collect on any future judgment remains unclear, because of the
difficulty of gaining jurisdiction and enforcing rulings against foreign
companies, especially in China. In other cases, many of the Chinese companies
cannot be found or have disbanded.
Homeowners, insurers, home builders, drywall suppliers and Chinese
manufacturers, if they can be identified, are often suing each other. Drywall
installers and suppliers are also expected to be targets of the next wave of
litigation. Many lawsui
ts need to be translated into Mandarin and follow rules of international
law, adding layers of difficulty.
Among the homeowners filing suit are the lieutenant governor of Florida,
Jeff Kottkamp; and Sean Payton, head coach of the New Orleans Saints, who
has moved out of his Mandeville, La., home.
The product safety commission has received more than 1,300 complaints from
26 states, but the bulk are from Florida, Louisiana and Virginia, where
hurricanes led to an unprecedented housing boom in 2006 and 2007.
In 2006 alone, nearly seven million sheets of drywall were imported from
China. The federal court in the Eastern District of Louisiana has identified
26 brands of drywall, but 11 others had no markings other than variations
of “Made in China.”
Insurance companies, in particular, have become a popular target of
lawsuits over their refusal to pay claims filed by homeowners and home builders,
stating that their policies do not cover problems caused by pollutants.
There are estimates that it costs $100,000 to $150,000 per home to rip out
and replace tainted drywall and the electrical equipment attached to it.
In these cases, homes are being stripped down to the studs and new drywall
Some home builders, worried about their reputations, are doing just that.
The Lennar Corporation has set aside $40 million for home repairs, while it
tries to collect from its insurance company and sues several Chinese
suppliers and American middlemen. Lennar declined to comment.
But many20smaller home builders, hoping to survive the downturn, do not
have such deep pockets. “This couldn’t have come at a worse time for th e
industry,” said Jenna Hamilton, assistant vice president of government
affairs at the National Association of Home Builders.
For that reason, some members of Congress hope the federal government will
provide financial assistance for their constituents, just as it does after
There may be local relief, too. Broward County, Fla., has cut property
assessments as much as 20 percent in some affected areas and Miami-Dade is
considering a similar tax break. “Florida is hypersensitive to hurricanes and
this is like a silent hurricane,” said Representative Robert Wexler,
Democrat of Florida. “Whole neighborhoods are being wiped out in terms of
property values and people’s ability to remain in their homes.”
Help could not come soon enough for Mr. Morgan’s Virginia dream home.
“Every piece of drywall in the house except for four pieces is Chinese,”
said Mr. Morgan. ”We built our home to be safe from floods, and for three
years we’ve been breathing this stuff.”
Mr. Morgan said that metal fixtures in his house turned black. His
air-conditioner and electrical outlets failed. Lamps and mirrors tarnished
immediately. Neighbors, too, had similar problems..
Mr. Morgan bought his house in 2006 after his family spent two years
living in a trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Manag
ement Agency when their previous home was destroyed in 2003 by Hurricane
Isabel. Mr. Morgan has lost the equity in his home, but he still drops by to
cut the grass.
“When I drive by my house, it breaks my heart,” he said.
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