$80 million more added to Chinese drywall settlement

Jun 5, 2012

The following article was published in the Fort Myers News-Press on June 5, 2012:

$80 million more added to Chinese drywall settlement

By Mary Wozniak


An $80 million settlement between thousands of homeowners and the builders, suppliers and installers who constructed their homes with Chinese drywall will feed into a $1 billion global settlement, aimed at fixing homes built with the defective product.

The settlement has more than 600 defendants, including some 80 insurers, and covers 7,000 to 8,000 homeowners, said Arthur Levin of Levin Fishbein, Sedran & Berman in Philadelphia, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. There are more homes involved in Florida than in any other state.

The defendants in this latest settlement, filed May 18 in federal court in New Orleans, include builders such as Lennar, Aubuchon, Aranda, Beazer, WCI, Taylor Morrison, Standard Pacific, First Choice Homes of Southwest Florida and many others.

“I thought the settlement was fair in that Judge (Eldon) Fallon worked hard to equitably distribute responsibility among all the parties,” said state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, who is also owner of Aubuchon Homes. “And hopefully as a result of this settlement, homeowners, builders and all who have been affected will finally be able to put this issue behind them with adequate resources to repair their homes.”

Marshall Ames, Lennar spokesman, declined comment. Other builders were unavailable for comment.

The $80 million agreement joins earlier settlements, including a $55 million settlement with Banner Supply, under the umbrella of an Oct. 14, 2010, settlement with drywall manufacturer Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. to provide up to $1 billion in remediation money. The money would go to fix the homes of about 10,000 plaintiffs in multidistrict drywall litigation consolidated under Fallon.

The group of settlements won’t apply only to homeowners who have drywall from Knauf, Levin said. Some of the money will go to those with drywall from Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd., which has refused to come to the table to negotiate, as well as defective drywall from other, smaller Chinese companies. An “allocation committee” will be created to decide who gets what, he said.

If homeowners have already negotiated and accepted an agreement to have their home fixed, such as in a pilot program started by Knauf, they will not be getting more money, Levin said. “No double dip.”

Fallon will decide whether to finalize all the settlements at hearings Nov. 13-14.

Lee County has often been called the epicenter of the drywall problem, with at least 1,500 homes affected. Many homeowners were foreclosed on or abandoned their homes as unlivable. Others fixed their homes on their own at an average cost of about $100,000, and some have just been on hold, waiting and hoping for monetary relief from the courts.

Richard and Jewelstine Laudermilk of Cape Coral have continued to live in their home with defective drywall since they discovered it three years ago. They don’t have the money to fix it. Laudermilk said he is one of the plaintiffs and had heard of the latest settlement. He hopes it means they are closer to receiving some money to fix the home. “It’s been a horrific experience but you can’t help but be patient,” he said. “The legal wheel turns slowly.”

The defective drywall was imported mainly between 2004 and 2008. The product has a foul smell and emits sulfur compounds that corrode air conditioning coils, electrical wiring, appliances, jewelry and other metal items in the home.

Many who live with the drywall complain of health problems from nosebleeds to respiratory problems.

The drywall has been found in 41 states and Puerto Rico.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in February 2011 it is not necessary to conduct a study of the long-term effects of exposure to defective Chinese drywall.

Reasons include the symptoms are too general, exposure levels are not available, and a scientific study would take years and require large amounts of resources.

View the original article here:  http://www.news-press.com/article/20120606/NEWS01/306060022/-80-million-more-added-Chinese-drywall-settlement