The number of Chinese drywall manufacturers responsible for corrosion and potential health problems plaguing U.S. homeowners may be about to increase substantially.
With the first set of home inspections about to begin in the massive combined Chinese drywall litigation playing out in New Orleans, lawyers involved in the case were told to document the different identifying markings on wallboard found in affected homes.
On Thursday, they revealed that 36 separate variations of tainted drywall have been found — a much higher number than previously disclosed.
While some manufacturers may have more than one way of marking their product and some markings were stamped by distributors, the three dozen variations opens the door to a host of new companies publicly joining the mix.
New players revealed in photographs filed with the court show names such as Crescent City Gypsum Inc., International Materials Trading, ProWall and Dragon Brand Drywall.
The disclosure came Thursday as U.S. District Court Judge Eldon E. Fallon, who is overseeing the multidistrict litigation, warned one of the Chinese manufacturers already identified — Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd. — that he would issue a default judgment if it did not respond in the case.
Fallon also warned other defendants served with lawsuits who had failed to respond that he would consider granting default judgments against them.
At Thursday’s proceeding, he appeared ready to follow through.
The Mitchell Co., an Alabama home builder also active in Florida, had filed a motion Wednesday asking the court for a default judgment against Taishan Gypsum, which the builder was finally able to serve with its suit this summer in China.
Taishan, also known as Taian Taishan Plasterboard and Shandong Taihe Dongxin Co. Ltd., is controlled by the Beijing New Building Materials Public Limited Co., or BNBM, a state-owned entity controlled by the Chinese government.
Fallon said he would issue a preliminary default judgment against the manufacturer if it did not file an appearance before Sept. 24. The judge warned that what would then quickly follow would be a hearing to determine a final judgment against Taishan.
“I will set it for a hearing, you can present any evidence and I’ll issue a judgment, a monetary judgment, on that,” Fallon told the attorney for The Mitchell Co.
As was reported, Taishan continued shipping drywall to the U.S. into 2007, after many other Chinese manufacturers had stopped. In summer 2007, for example, three Taishan shipments entered Port Everglades, totaling 3 million pounds.
It was New York’s ports that experienced perhaps the most activity when it came to Taishan drywall. In 2006 and 2007, ships bearing the company’s wallboard docked at least two dozen times at ports there, carrying a total of more than 4.5 million pounds of the material.
In addition to being absent from the court proceedings, Taishan and its parent company BNBM also have been tight-lipped when it comes to questions from the media.
A representative of BNBM previously contacted at the company’s office in Beijing said the company had “set up a work group looking into the case,” but disputed the Taishan board was defective.
The company has since refused to respond to questions about its activities.
Among the photographs submitted Thursday was one of drywall bearing the brand name of BNBM itself — not its Taishan subsidiary — showing the parent company also has its own variety of board causing problems in the U.S.
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