A federal judge has ordered a Chinese drywall manufacturer to pay a total of $2.6 million to seven families who used the defective product and must now remove it from their homes.
In the first U.S. trial decision over faulty Chinese drywall, U.S. District Court Judge Eldon Fallon, of the Eastern District of Louisiana, ordered Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd. to pay seven Virginia families a total of $2.6 million in remediation damages. Taishan is headquartered in Tai'an, China, about 250 miles south of Beijing. The case is captioned Germano et al. v. Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd, et al., case no. 09-6687.
"The message Judge Fallon's ruling sends to thousands of other homeowners who have been victimized is that help is finally coming: They will be made whole by the ravages of inferior Chinese drywall and will not have to bear the substantial costs of repairing their homes to get rid of it," said plaintiffs’ attorney Christopher Seeger.
Representatives from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission observed the Germano trial in February, Seeger said. “The CPSC has already adopted and publicly endorsed the position we argued at trial, which is that for their safety homeowners should remove the Chinese drywall and replace any system it has damaged, such as wiring or plumbing or sprinklers,” Seeger said. “The Germano case is just the opening salvo in what we hope will be a national effort to make families whole again for having to live with this shoddy, corrosive and toxic gypsum material in their homes."
Seeger’s firm is also representing a number of other Gulf Coast homeowners who used the same drywall to rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. That trial begins in June. All of the cases are being heard in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
In the drywall case decided April 8, plaintiffs described a range of problems caused by the Taishan drywall, including its unpleasant acrid smell, corrosion of electric wires and appliances, and physical symptoms such as difficulty breathing, headaches, rashes and nosebleeds caused by the gases released.
In addition, several homeowners paid for multiple tests in their homes and, later, for temporary places to live when the drywall fumes made their homes uninhabitable. Some families lived with the persistent fear of fire breaking out, due to the corrosion of metal surfaces by sulfur gases from the leeching gypsum. Any attempt to remove the drywall produced further damage or destroyed household fixtures and furnishings, including kitchen cabinets, countertops, carpet, wall trim, even doorknobs.
Chinese-made drywall, Fallon wrote in his decision, has significantly higher levels of hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and carbon disulfide—all known irritants to humans—than "typical, benign drywall." Sulfur gases also release strong odors and are known to corrode various metals.
"The Court finds that scientific, economic, and practicality concerns dictate that the proper remediation... is to remove all drywall in their homes, all items which have suffered corrosion as a result of the Chinese drywall, and all items which will be materially damaged in the process of removal," the decision concluded.