Chinese Drywall Repairs Underway in Florida Homes as Part of Settlement

A pilot program to repair 300 homes in Florida as part of a Chinese drywall settlement program, is going well and may be expanded, according to a federal judge. 

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon, who is overseeing all consolidated Chinese drywall lawsuits in federal court, reported on Thursday that the program is proceeding successfully and likely to expand to more homes. The project, which is sponsored by toxic drywall importer Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin (KPT), is part of an agreement reached by the German-based company, some domestic distributers, suppliers, insurers and homeowners in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

The companies are footing the bill for renovating the homes, which were all allegedly damaged by drywall imported from China between 2004 and 2007. The Chinese drywall repairs involve removing all of the drywall, as well as replacing electrical wiring, gas fixtures and appliances in the home. Families are also being relocating for the duration of the repairs.

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For months, home builders and federal investigators struggled to develop techniques to successfully purge homes of the toxic smell and corrosion, which lingered and returned even after the drywall had been ripped out.

If the Chinese drywall settlement program continues to be successful, attorneys involved in the litigation say that the project could be expanded to between 2,000 and 3,000 homes, as long as the homes actually contain KPT drywall. Drywall imported by other Chinese wallboard manufacturers are not part of the settlement, and courts have had trouble even getting other companies to participate in the legal proceedings in the United States.

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has received thousands of complaints from across the United States from homeowners who say that the toxic Chinese wallboard releases sulfuric odors that corrode wiring throughout the home, damage appliances and may cause various health problems. Many of the problems with the Chinese drywall have been confirmed by laboratory testing.

Millions of sheets of the toxic drywall were imported from China into the United States due to a domestic shortage caused by a housing boom and construction following a serious of hurricanes that struck the southeastern United States.

Homeowners throughout the United States have filed lawsuits over Chinese drywall, naming manufacturers, distributors and builders. In June 2009, all of the federal drywall litigation was consolidated and centralized in an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation, in New Orleans under U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon. There are about 3,000 lawsuits specifically targeting KPT.

Efforts to reach a settlement began after Judge Fallon awarded $164,000 to a Louisiana family that filed a Chinese drywall lawsuit against KPT. The ruling equated to about $81 per square foot.

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