Monday, June 15, 2015 - The pending multidistrict litigation concerning toxic drywall manufactured by the Chinese company Taishan Gypsum is nearing a decision by New Orleans Federal Judge Edon Fallon concerning the damages to be paid to plaintiffs. Judge Fallon heard from experts on June 9 in relation to the drywall complaints and chose to decide on the proper damages toward the end of the month after he speaks with counsel from both sides.
More than 2,700 homeowners are involved in the lawsuits against Taishan Gypsum, claiming the drywall manufacturer produced a product that emitted sulfur fumes. Not only can those fumes pose a serious health risk to a dwelling‘s inhabitants, but they can also be detrimental by corroding appliances within a household. Plaintiffs have claimed the drywall has been responsible for damages ranging from televisions and surround sound systems to air conditioners and washing machines.
Judge Fallon referenced the current situations for some plaintiffs when discussing possible settlement amounts, mentioning that many had gone into bankruptcy, completely lost their homes and even that some were currently living in tents as a result of the drywalls corrosive effects. Some plaintiffs claim they noticed the effects of the drywall only months after moving into their new homes.
Much of the toxic drywall at the heart of the MDL was sold to Americans rebuilding after hurricanes. The building material took off following the 2005 hurricane season, but was linked to the toxicity that prompted the lawsuit soon thereafter. By the time the lawsuits began to roll in, much of the Southeast had rebuilt their damaged property with Taishan Gypsum drywall.
The multidistrict litigation, certified in June of 2009, contains homeowners in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia. Though none of the homeowners will be testifying before Judge Fallon, experts familiar with their situation will be giving their opinions on the adverse effects the drywall had on their homes.
There have been incidents in dealing with Taishan Gypsum throughout the proceedings as well. Judge Fallon heard seven cases in the MDL in 2012 awarded the plaintiffs $2.7 million in damages. Judge Fallon then had to hold Taishan Gypsum in contempt of court after the company refused to respond to the ruling, and fined them $500,000 dollars upon their eventual return to the proceedings eight months after the ruling was made.
Another drywall manufacturer, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., agreed to assist financially in repairing homes affected by their toxic products. The expected worth of that settlement to date has reached over $1 billion. The initial requests by the plaintiffs in the Taishan Gypsum MDL reached up to $1.3 billion. Taishan Gypsum has countered with a proposal of $512 million, stating that the plaintiffs had made errors in their estimation of the damages.
Most of the cases involved in the MDL are expected to be resolved with a dollar amount per square foot determined in the near future by Judge Fallon. There are additional lawsuits that will not fit into this rubric. These cases will be heard on their own.