For those people whose homes and lives were affected by Hurricane Katrina, the toll was heavy. Unfortunately, some of those people were sideswiped again when faulty drywall manufactured in China was installed in rebuilt homes in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Virginia, Alabama, and Texas. Chemicals in the drywall produced a strong odor in the homes and sometimes corroded wiring and pipes. As a result, most homeowners were forced to abandon their homes or sell them for steep losses while the lawsuit was filed and worked its way through the courts.
Recently, a federal judge ruled that nearly 4,000 homeowners in the affected states are eligible to share in damages he may award in the lawsuit against the drywall manufacturer, Taishan Gypsum Co., Ltd, which is a government-owned company that did not show up in court. One of the plaintiff attorneys thinks the damages could reach into the billions.
Unfortunately, there is little hope of the homeowners collecting on those damages unless the U.S. government steps in and forces the Chinese government and company to be held accountable. Another manufacturer, German-owned Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., and other companies it supplied agreed in 2010 to pay for home repairs. That settlement is expected to total $1.1 billion. Whether or not the homeowners receive any money from the judgment entered against Taishan remains to be seen, though legal experts say the outcome is highly unlikely.
This case and its result should serve as a warning to design professionals and contractors to properly vet and research suppliers and manufacturers.