Lawsuits over Chinese drywall piling up
The results of a government investigation into symptoms linked to the product are expected later this month.
Closure simply can't come soon enough for the thousands of homeowners who fear they are living with symptoms caused by contaminated Chinese drywall.
As lawsuits linked to the issue pile up at state and federal courts, including a consolidated class action that will begin in January in Louisiana, the Consumer Product Safety Commission this month plans to release the results of its investigation into problems with the drywall, according to an article in The New York Times.
The results are expected to include reasons why the product has caused symptoms such as headaches and difficulty breathing, and outline possible remedies. But it will likely be too late for many of these homeowners and renters.
The Times follows the woes of one man, Bill Morgan, who blames the tainted drywall for forcing him to move out of his brand-new dream home in Williamsburg, Va., and for his eventual bankruptcy. All the signs were there: a noxious odor throughout the house, persistent headaches and nosebleeds, corrosion of indoor metals.
Morgan had no choice but to move out, but then he was unable to keep up with his mortgage and rent, especially now that he says the property his house sits on is worth more than the home itself.
Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission has received more than 1,300 complaints from 26 states, The Times writes that most of the complaints are from Florida, Virginia and Louisiana, which were in the middle of post-hurricane housing booms when domestic drywall began to run short in 2006 and 2007. From The Times:
"There could be 60,000 to 100,000 homes that are worthless and have to be ripped completely down and rebuilt," said Arnold Levin, a Philadelphia lawyer and co-chairman of the plaintiffs’ steering committee.
But the class-action lawsuit could very well lead to a dead end, since China isn't exactly known for cooperating with the U.S. judicial system, much less the U.S. itself. And tracking down the source of the drywall is another problem entirely.
The Times writes that in 2006 alone, China imported nearly 7 million sheets of drywall to the U.S., and although the court that will be hearing the class-action suit has identified 26 brands of drywall, 11 others simply say some variation of "Made in China."
Even if the source is found, oftentimes the company has simply disappeared.
So what's America's solution? From The Times:
Homeowners, insurers, home builders, drywall suppliers and Chinese manufacturers, if they can be identified, are often suing each other.
Well, at least we've managed to put a stop to the importing of any more Chinese drywall to prevent even more Americans from putting each other out of business. After all, it's not nearly as easy to get rid of a product that is installed throughout homes, compared with the recent recalls of toothpaste and pet food that have put consumers on the alert.
The Times says estimates put the cost of ripping out and installing new drywall and the electrical equipment attached to it at $100,000 to $150,000, a high price that apparently some builders are ready to eat to save their reputations.
But smaller companies may not be able to do the same thing, and jeez, talk about timing. From The Times:
"This couldn’t have come at a worse time for the industry," said Jenna Hamilton, assistant vice president of government affairs at the National Association of Home Builders.
SOLUTION - The United States Department of Commerce and The United States Customs Service (a part of The United States Department of Homeland Security I believe) do their job! Refuse 100% of all imports from China until the Chinese government compensates every affected U.S. homeowner and company enough to make the repairs and properly dispose of every bit of this toxic product. Let's quit beating around the bush and force the Chinese government to take responsibility. That's the only entity with the ability to sort out which Chinese companies are responsible - not the United States government, U. S. companies, or U. S. homeowners. To claim that the Chinese manufacturers are hard to locate, or likely out of business, is just passing the buck!
It seems that the free trade agreement is causing us a lot of pain.
The only thing that can be done is to get the word out that . . .
Surprise! Deregulation isn't always a good thing.
Now we are exposed to numerous hazards that would not be a problem if we bought locally.
One must be sure the odor is coming from the dry wall. We had our house of 32 years professionally remodeled last year. No new drywall, just removed the 'popcorn ceilings' and retextured the majority of the house. The evening after the application of the 'texture', you could smell the horrible odor even in the front yard. After several days, this rotton egg, dead body smell could be detected halfway down the street! You cannot imagine what our neighbors thought was going on. The drywall contractor sprayed 'bad' texture. This happens when they do not clean and bleach their equipment between jobs. The contractor just wanted to spray a sealer on the walls and have them painted. He said "This will go away. It happens all the time. We just paint over the odor. You will never know." He said if this were a new house that we were not living in at the time, we would never know. The painter said he would not do the job with the odor. We contacted the texture manufacturer and a lawyer. He explained the odor is from the remnants of a bacteria that grew and multiplied in the texture material left in the equipment. The longer it sits in the tank, the more bacteria, the worse the odor. The order doesn't go away with paint or sealer. It has to be removed. Our contractor made us wait six weeks to see if it would dissipate. He bleached the walls. He deodorized the walls... nothing worked. With great pressure, he finally sanded all texture off the walls and ceilings, then retextured with uncontaminated material. We waited six months before we painted to be sure the odor was gone. It has been over a year. Our home is painted and odor free. What a stressful experience for us. If the sanding did nor remove the odor, the walls and ceilings would have had to be removed. I feel the contractor has to own the responsibility for poor practices.
That really sucks for all the homeowners who probably unknowingly had this inferior product installed into their otherwise safe new homes, but there is no mention of the drywallers who worked day in and out with this product possibly for years. When you cut drywall for light and outlet openings A LOT of dust becomes airborne. I imagine these workers must be most at risk for long term health problems. Who's gonna foot the bill for their healthcare. Not China, I know that much.
As far as I'm concerned, not a single one of their products should be allowed to be imported into North America until proven safe. What may seem cheap initially could end up costing PLENTY more in the long run. What's that saying, In for a penny in for a pound?
My home at Grand Harbor, Vero Beach, FL has Chinese Drywall. It was discovered by the builder , Grand Harbor, who initiated an inspection. Grand Harbor has provided me with and moved my family into a comparable home to reside in while they completely rebuild mine, inside.
They couldn't have been more fair, so far and we have no evidence of lasting health issues.
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.