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Drywall decisions portend a trend

Attorney says SW Fla. clients should benefit

Jun. 23, 2010


1:10 A.M. — A flurry of settlements and favorable verdicts for homeowners with defective Chinese drywall bodes well for homeowners in Southwest Florida and the rest of the state, an attorney who represents hundreds of Florida homeowners said Wednesday.

The direct benefit is to the parties who prevailed in those lawsuits, said Allison Grant, a Boca Raton attorney who represents numerous cases in Cape Coral and about 500 drywall homeowners across the state.

"However, it is very significant for everybody else," Grant said.

The reason is, the decisions establish a path.

"As you start settling these cases it has a snowball effect, if you will," she said.

A steady stream of rulings, verdicts and settlements began with federal Judge Eldon Fallon issuing his April 8 ruling against manufacturer Taishan Gypsum Co., awarding $2.6 million to seven Virginia homeowners. Since Taishan never acknowledged the lawsuit, it remains to be seen how or if the award will be collected.

But the pattern was set. Since then,

- April 27: Fallon ruled that Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin must pay about $164,000 to fix a 1,688-square-foot Mandeville, La., home. Knauf had offered to pay up to $58,564. The company is still considering an appeal, a spokesman said Wednesday.

- May 17: Knauf Tianjin announced a defective drywall settlement with Beazer Homes.

- June 18: A jury in Miami-Dade County awarded a Miami couple $2.4 million in a lawsuit against Banner Supply, one of the suppliers of the tainted drywall.

- Also June 18: At the last minute, Knauf Tianjin and two Louisiana property owners settled cases that were set for trial in federal court Monday before Fallon.

- Tuesday: In a settlement in a class-action lawsuit, South Kendall Construction and an affiliate, Palm Isles Holdings,will pay $4 million and Keys Gate Realty will pay $2.6 million to homeowners, if the court approves the offer.

The drywall, imported mostly between 2004 and 2007, emits sulfur compounds that corrode air conditioning coils, electrical wiring, metal on appliances, electronics, jewelry and plumbing fixtures. Residents of homes that have the drywall complain of health issues from nosebleeds to respiratory problems.

Lee County has at least 1,500 homes with defective drywall.

On Wednesday, homeowners in Fort Myers and Cape Coral alternately expressed hope and cynicism about the latest court actions, weary of dealing with the economic, emotional and health effects of the drywall.

"I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel," said Henry Sampson of Fort Myers, who is involved in a class-action suit. He called the homeowners who prevailed in the various cases "lucky," but thinks his class-action suit will take longer to resolve.

Paul Brazezicke of Cape Coral sees a ray of hope.

"Hearing the people are winning their cases is encouraging," he said. "I think it's a good sign but I won't be happy until the sheet rock is out of my house."

Brazezicke and his wife paid off their house when they moved into it three and a half years ago.

"We were going to retire," he said. "That was going to be it. We were going to be happy."

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