Chinese toxic drywall lawsuits

It is interesting that when you review our Product Recall Alerts you will find that most of the substandard products are from China. There has been a huge issue with Chinese toxic drywall being used in the United States and even into Canada.

Elliot Special Risk LP reports: Between 2001 and 2007, hundreds of millions of sheets of defective drywall were imported from China into the U.S. to keep up with massive reconstruction efforts following a series of Gulf Coast hurricanes as well as building booms in other areas of the country. Thousands of homeowners, mostly in Florida, Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, began complaining of breathing problems, sore throat, bloody nose, eye irritation, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia and headaches.

The toxic drywall emitted hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide and other gases, creating a "rotten egg" odour and causing damage to health and property. Industry watchers have suggested that as few as three sheets can be enough to render a home uninhabitable.

The off-gases also corrode exposed metals, resulting in scorched wiring behind plugs and switchplates; damaged coils in air conditioners; blackened jewelry, silverware and television cables; and premature failure of light bulbs, fixtures, appliances and other electrical equipment.

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon is presiding over more than 2,100 federal lawsuits homeowners have brought against manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and home builders.

In the first trial in April 2010, Fallon concluded that plaintiffs' homes must be gutted in order to replace all drywall, electrical wiring, heating and air conditioning equipment, broadloom, cabinets, trim work and flooring.

His findings, which are expected to set the standard for remediation of tainted homes, went further than recommendations made by the Consumer Protection Safety Commission.

He awarded seven Virginia families $2.6 million in damages. In addition to being liable for remediation, the defendant, Taishan Gypsum Co., was responsible for cleaning and airing the homes, as well as the post-cleanup environmental certification. The court also found that the plaintiffs could recover for the loss of personal property such as appliances, carpets, curtains and clothing; economic damages arising from the loss of use and enjoyment of the home; alternative living costs; and costs associated with foreclosures, bankruptcies and the reduction of property values.

Taishan did not participate in the initial litigation, but has since hired U.S. attorneys and filed an appeal to the decision. Thousands of plaintiffs are also pursuing claims in state courts. In June, the first of these cases saw a Florida jury award Armin and Lisa Seifart $2.4 million in costs for gutting and renovating their $1.6-million house as well as damages for loss of enjoyment of their home and the stigma that might reduce its value.

An estimated million square metres of the noxious drywall arrived in Canada through Vancouver. Most was used in the B.C. lower mainland, but some may have reached the Prairies and southern Ontario. As yet, no lawsuits have been reported in this country.