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The New York Times recently published a lengthy article about the Chinese drywall crisis affecting American homeowners. The article reported the story of a retired policeman who filed for personal bankruptcy after moving his family out of their three-year-old Williamsburg, Virginia home because it contains the defective drywall. The family suffered persistent health problems like headaches and nosebleeds, and metal parts inside the home corroded because of the toxic fumes from the drywall.
Three hundred cases involving defective Chinese drywall have been filed in Louisiana to date, and the Florida health department has fielded over 500 health complaints with symptoms such as headaches and respiratory problems. Cases in a consolidated class action in Federal District Court in Louisiana will begin being heard in January. Even some high profile homeowners have filed suit, including Florida’s lieutenant governor and the head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is currently investigating Chinese drywall, the largest investigation of its kind in the agency’s history. The commission is expected to soon release the results of its study, which will include an analysis of the causes of reported problems and a remediation protocol. The commission is also ensuring that no more Chinese drywall is brought into the U.S. The agency has received over 1,300 complaints from over 26 states, with most of the complaints coming from Florida, Louisiana and Virginia.
Determining the source of all the defective drywall is difficult, as millions of sheets of the product were imported and some are simply stamped “Made in China”. Knauf Plasterboard, which supplied roughly 20% of Chinese drywall to the U.S., says it is cooperating with U.S. investigators and also claims its own testing of affected homes shows its product causes no health problems. One Chinese company has been held in default in federal court for failing to answer a lawsuit. The federal court has identified 26 brands of the drywall; however, it is unclear whether plaintiffs will ever receive compensation from many of these companies, as some cannot be found, others are no longer in business, and it is difficult to maintain jurisdiction and enforce rulings over foreign entities.
It is estimated that the remediation for homes with the defective drywall will cost $100,000 to $150,000. Insurance companies have thus far refused to pay for repairs, and in some cases are being sued by policyholders.
Federal and local lawmakers are also exploring government assistance for affected homeowners, including property tax relief being offered by some counties.
For the full story, go to the New York Times.