In the first defective Chinese drywall lawsuit heard by a jury, a Florida family was awarded $2.46 million in damages. The case was seen by many observers as a “bellwether” case, or a forecast on how other juries will react to similar evidence in similar cases across the U.S.
The lawsuit against Banner Supply, a Miami-based construction supply company, was filed in Florida state court by Armin Seifart and Lisa Gore. The suit alleges the company knowingly sold defective drywall that released a rotten egg smell and corroded appliances throughout their home.
More than 3300 complaints have been filed with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regarding defective Chinese drywall. Affected homeowners say Chinese drywall imported between 2002 and 2007 releases a strong sulfuric odor (rotten egg smell) that corrodes wiring throughout the home, damages appliances and causes various health problems…further lab testing has confirmed many of these problems.
Due to the housing and construction boom in the U.S. up through 2007 and several powerful hurricanes that hit the southeastern U.S., domestically produced drywall was in short supply. In 2006 alone, over 6 million sheets were imported according to the CPSC.
Plaintiffs in the Florida case maintain Banner Supply made a secret deal with Knauf Plasterboard Taijin, a German company that supplied the Chinese drywall, to cover up drywall problems. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Joseph Farina allowed the agreement to be unsealed before the trial, which revealed that Banner knew of bad smelling drywall in 2007 and asked Knauf to investigate.
Knauf’s investigation determined sulfur levels were safe so a deal was struck with Banner to keep silent on the matter. Knauf agreed to replace the bad drywall it had sold Banner with U.S.-made material and paid Banner to hold it. In exchange, Banner agreed to keep quiet about the matter and not help anyone seeking to file a suit against Knauf.
Attorneys for the south Florida construction supply firm said the company thought the problem was only an isolated incident and had no idea the scope of the problem was much larger when they signed the agreement.
The jury found Banner negligent and in violation of Florida’s deceptive and unfair trade law, whose actions lowered the resale value of the plaintiff’s home…Banner officials say they are considering an appeal.
Other lawsuits regarding defective drywall from China have been filed throughout the U.S., including a class action lawsuit in Miami against Banner Supply, Keys Gate Realty and Palm Isles Holdings, LLC.
In June, 2009, all federal litigation involving this matter was consolidated and centralized in an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation, in New Orleans under Judge Eldon Fallon. Earlier this year, Judge Fallon awarded a Louisiana family $164,000 in their suit against Knauf. Since this ruling, Knauf has begun seeking settlements with construction firms who bought their drywall.
Also, Judge Fallon issued a ruling that awarded $2.6 million to seven Virginia families who filed a lawsuit against Taishan Gypsum Co., a Chinese drywall firm. It is unclear how the families will collect though since China does not recognize civil suits in the U.S. and did not appear in court to answer the charges.
While the states hardest hit by this problem are in the southeast, many other complaints have surfaced in other regions, including here in Colorado.
If you’re living in a newly constructed home (2002-2007) and are experiencing health problems (respiratory problems, nosebleeds and headaches), smelling a rotten egg odor and/or seeing corroded wires, you may have contaminated drywall in your home. Get your drywall tested immediately and find out if you’re eligible for compensation and a replacement of the defective sheetrock.