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Miss. Chinese Drywall Lawsuits Filed Post-Katrina

Chinese drywall could become the new asbestos – a building substance that’s the target of a growing number of lawsuits.

About 150 lawsuits already have been filed over Chinese drywall, including about a dozen in Mississippi, and the number is growing almost daily, based upon federal court records. The cases will be consolidated into a class-action lawsuit in federal court in New Orleans.

Drywall is known by several names, including Sheetrock, gypsum board and wallboard. It is the primary material used for interior walls and ceilings in homes.

Homeowners say Chinese drywall emits an odor like rotten eggs and causes damage and corrosion to home structures and appliances. Lawsuits also blame Chinese drywall for health problems, including allergic reactions, coughing, sinus and throat irritations, eye irritation, and respiratory problems.

Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, a company that manufacturers Chinese drywall, said in a statement earlier this year that it sold plasterboard to a third party that imported it to Florida in 2006.

“The company is conducting a thorough investigation and cooperating with builders that have contacted it. Studies and testing by nationally recognized experts are ongoing.

The testing has confirmed that copper has blackened and may be caused by low levels of naturally occurring sulfur gases. The low levels of gases do not present a health risk to persons within the residences.”

Gulfport lawyer Jim Reeves said his office has confirmed at least 30 homes with suspect drywall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the number grows by three or four each day. Reeves is one of 14 attorneys across the country selected to lead the effort to sue the Chinese manufacturer and other companies associated with drywall.

The drywall was installed in tens of thousands of homes rebuilt after Katrina in 2005, Reeves said. “Now those that rebuilt with this defective drywall have been made victims again,” Reeves said.

There is no firm estimate, but Reeves said there could be 30,000 to 50,000 homes nationally with this drywall.

A Gulf Coast couple says in a federal lawsuit filed Aug. 28 that the Chinese drywall used in their home has created noxious odors.

Also, the drywall causes damage to home structures and mechanical systems such as air-conditioner and refrigerator coils, copper tubing, faucets, metal surfaces, electrical wiring, and computer wiring, Richard and Patches Oliver allege in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Gulfport.

The Olivers said the drywall, imported from China, was installed in their Bay St. Louis home in 2006.

Defendants include Knauf Gips, a German manufacturer of building material; Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., its Chinese company involved in the manufacturing, sale, distribution and marketing of drywall; and Knauf Plasterboard (Wuhu) Co., also in the manufacturing, sale, distribution and marketing of gypsum drywall.

The Environmental Protection Agency has found sulfur and other materials in a small sampling of the Chinese-made product that is not found in U.S. manufactured drywall.

The EPA has suggested further testing.

In June, New Orleans federal court was selected as the venue where all lawsuits involving the drywall will be consolidated and heard. The Associated Press has reported that around 400 plaintiffs and 20 defendants have filled out “profile forms” for the litigation.

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