The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is scheduled to hear oral arguments late next month on a motion filed to consolidate all Chinese drywall lawsuits pending in various federal district courts before one judge for coordinated pretrial litigation.
According to a Notice of Hearing Session issued by the MDL panel on April 23, 2009, there are currently 10 lawsuits involving the defective plasterboard pending in five different districts, with four in the Southern District of Florida, three in the Middle District of Florida and one Chinese drywall lawsuit each pending in the Northern District of Florida, Eastern District of Louisiana and Southern District of Ohio.
All of the complaints involve similar allegations that problems have been caused by drywall imported from China in recent years. The drywall contains high levels of sulfur compounds which could emit gases that produce a foul odor of rotten eggs, corrode copper throughout the home, damage air conditioning units and potentially cause health problems like difficulty breathing, nosebleeds, coughing, sneezing and eye irritation.
Over 200,000 sheets of Chinese drywall imported into the United States between 2004 and 2006 could be made from fly ash residue, which is a waste material found in coal fired power plants. When exposed to moisture common in Florida and the southeastern United States, the drywall could emit the corrosive gases.
The first Chinese drywall lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on January 30, 2009, by Shane and Nicole Allen against the manufacturer of the Chinese plasterboard, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, the German parent company, The Knauf Group, Banner Supply, a Florida supplier and a China based exporter, Rothchilt International Ltd.
Since that time, drywall complaints have also been filed in Louisiana and the defective drywall is being discovered in a growing number of states, such as Arizona, Texas, California, Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina.
Two plaintiffs who have filed a defective drywall lawsuit filed a Motion with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate and centralize all currently filed and potential future cases in the Southern District of Florida in an MDL, or multidistrict litigation. The Motion will be considered by the Panel on May 27, 2009.
An MDL allows all cases to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses and the court.
It is expected that potentially hundreds of other homeowners throughout the United States will file a similar lawsuit in the coming months, as Chinese drywall attorneys in several states are investigating and reviewing cases on behalf of individuals who suspect that they may have the defective plasterboard in their homes.