For the second time in less than a month, a federal judge in Louisiana has found a Chinese drywall manufacturer liable for extensive damages associated with its installation in American homes, setting a precedent for thousands of similar suits pending in federal courts.
U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon of the Eastern District of Louisiana has ordered Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., Ltd. to pay Tatum and Charlene Hernandez more than $164,000 to cover the costs of removing the faulty drywall from their home in Mandeville, La., along with replacing corroded electrical wiring, damaged plumbing, and making other fixes necessitated by the company’s defective drywall product. Knauf, a German-owned multinational supplier of building materials, operates a factory in Tianjun, China, some 75 miles north of Beijing.
Earlier in April, Judge Fallon ordered another Chinese drywall manufacturer, Taishan Gypsum Company, Ltd. to pay more than $2.6 million to seven Virginia families facing remediation costs in removing that company's plasterboard from their homes.
As with the Virginia homeowners, the Hernandez family is represented by Christopher Seeger and Jeffrey Grand of leading New York plaintiffs’ law firm Seeger Weiss LLP, along with Steven Hermans from the New Orleans-based firm Herman, Herman, Katz & Collar LLP, and additional trial attorneys Gerald Meunier and Daniel Bryson.
As a result of leeching fumes from the wallboard, the Hernandezes watched while their air conditioners and other electrical appliances were degraded and failed, the wires turning black. In his 47-page decision, Judge Fallon was blunt in his assessment of the damage caused by the Chinese drywall. "No reputable contractor would accept the risk of keeping copper and/or silver metal in the home after these materials existed in a corrosive environment and demonstrate significant corrosion, and neither would a reputable environmental consultant approve a remediation of the Hernandez home if the potential of continuation for such a corrosion risk remains," reads the decision. "It is not possible or feasible to clean the wires to render them sufficiently free of corrosion as suggested by the defendant. Although scrubbing the wires… may removed visible signs of black corrosion film, copper sulfide corrosion remains. Moreover, it is not feasible to scrub the insulated wires to remove the corrosion under the insulation. There does not exist an approved standard or method to clean copper sulfide corrosion from electrical wiring in a home."
After thoroughly reviewing possible remedies, Judge Fallon decided that the Hernandez family was entitled to a complete overhaul of their home, or what he described as “the court’s remediation protocol." The family initially estimated repair costs of $58,000. After reviewing the full extent of damage and clean-up costs to bring the house back to move-in condition, Judge Fallon ordered a total repair of $164, 049.64. The award included payment of nearly $137,000 in restoring the Hernandez's home and an additional $5,000 for replacing personal property.