Proposed Drywall Settlement Unfair to Victims, Say Attorneys

Jul 8, 2011

The following article was published in Property Casualty 360º on July 8, 2011:


Proposed Drywall Settlement Unfair to Victims, Say Attorneys

By Chad Hemenway

A proposed $55 million class-action settlement between a building supplier and hundreds of Florida homeowners whose homes were damaged by tainted Chinese drywall may be unfair to victims, says a group of attorneys.

David Durkee of Coral Gables, Fla.-based law firm Roberts & Durkee tells NU Online News Service that homeowners “better be sure” that the settlement amount is all of the money that could available to them.

“That needs to be verified,” he says. “We haven’t gotten a straight answer.”

Roberts & Durkee and another firm, V.M. Diaz & Partners of Miami Beach, issued a joint press release because now is the time for victims to decide if they want to opt out of the class-action settlement. The firms represent more than 500 victims of Chinese drywall, which is said to emit a foul smell, fumes that cause corrosion to plumbing and electrical components, and cause health problems for homeowners.

Under the terms of the settlement, insurers of supplier Banner Supply Co.—Chartis, FCCI Insurance Co., Hanover American Insurance Co. and Maryland Casualty Co.—will pay the award to affected homeowners.

Durkee says a number of questions remain unanswered, such as the corporate assets of Banner (the settlement does not require that they contribute to the fund), the number of claimants involved in the settlement, and when eligible homeowners can be paid.

“This is important,” he says. “These folks are hurting. Some have moved out and face foreclosure.”

The amount of money homeowners are able to get is not being disclosed before they must decide to stay in the class action or opt out, Durkee says.

Based on known information and the as-yet undetermined final number of suit members, which will likely change, attorneys’ fees and costs will leave about $25 million for homeowners. The law firms estimate that means final payouts will equal about $4,000 to $6,000 for each homeowner. This amount is not sufficient to cover the costs associated with repairing the homes and relocation during the process, the law firms say.

The settlement needs approval from U.S. District Court Judge Eldon E. Fallon in New Orleans. Fallon is handling all ongoing drywall cases. In the meantime, Fallon put a stay on all state court cases involving Banner.

Durkee says 10-15 objections to the settlement have been filed.

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