Courts negotiate Chinese drywall repairs for two Port St. Lucie homes

Oct 18, 2010

The following article was published by The Palm Beach Post on October 16, 2010:

By Nadia Vanderhoof

A vacant Vizcaya Falls property in Port St. Lucie will be one of the first homes repaired under a nationwide court negotiated settlement dealing with defective Chinese drywall.

“From what I understand, they want to get things done as soon as possible, within 60 to 90 days,” said Illinois resident Van Ristovski, who purchased the home last year. “I am online right now trying to get a (airline) ticket.”

Thursday, attorneys involved in the class action Chinese drywall lawsuit announced 300 homes, including two in Port St. Lucie, would be repaired by drywall manufacturer and distributor Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. and other suppliers, builders and insurers. Homes in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi were included in the settlement.

The Port St. Lucie homeowners retained Naples-based law firm Parker, Waichman, Alonso to represent them in the class-action lawsuit against Knauf.

Both homes are on Leonardo Circle at Vizcaya Falls.

Ristovski, who decided to expand his mortgage business to Port St. Lucie, purchased his Mediterranean-style home within the gated community in March 2009. Within weeks of the closing, Ristovski said he noticed a foul odor in the home. A private home inspector confirmed the home was built with Chinese drywall by Centerline Homes.

“I had the home inspected before I bought it and no one even mentioned Chinese drywall,” Ristovski said. “I’ve been paying for a home I can’t even live in … when I’m there I stay at a hotel.”

When he failed to get answers from his Realtor and the home’s builder on repairs, Ristovski retained the Naples law firm.

April Goodwin, an attorney with Parker, Waichman, Alonso, said only 179 Chinese drywall litigants in Florida were eligible to be part of the court-negotiated pilot program. Seven homeowners in Florida, including the two in Port St. Lucie, accepted the terms of the program.

“I believe there are upwards of close to 10,000 cases in litigation, so to be part of this 300, out of the four or five states, is very lucky,” Goodwin said. “They have selected 40 homes where work will begin right away.”

Goodwin said homes had to meet certain criteria like having only Knauf drywall from China inside a home. Knauf is accused of selling drywall that causes corrosion inside homes.

In April, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said homeowners should replace the toxic wallboard, all electrical components and wiring from their homes. That included gas service piping, fire suppression sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.

The edict came after a Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers report in April found 166 local homeowners with Chinese drywall had registered serious health complaints with the Product Safety Commission. According to the complaints — including 53 from Indian River County, 90 from St. Lucie County and 23 from Martin County — both infants and the elderly have been hospitalized because of Chinese drywall. Local health complaints range from asthma, respiratory infections, double pneumonia, nosebleeds, elevated liver enzymes and headaches to complaints as serious as lung problems and cancer.

The settlement, negotiated by the Louisiana courts, was praised by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who called the move a “positive step for drywall victims looking to piece their lives back together.” Nelson has been at the forefront of the Chinese drywall issue since early 2009.

“The journey, however, is far from over,” Nelson said. in a statement. “It’s time for other foreign manufacturers of defective drywall to step up and do right by American consumers.”

Thousands of other homeowners have drywall from other Chinese manufacturers who have ignored the U.S. courts.

Find this article at: