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RISMEDIA, April 15, 2010—A federal judge in Louisiana has ruled that a Chinese drywall manufacturer must compensate American homeowners who used its product and are now forced to tear it out because it emits noxious fumes and corrodes household wiring and plumbing. In the first critical U.S. trial decision over faulty Chinese drywall, U.S. District Court Judge Eldon Fallon, of the Eastern District of Louisiana ordered Taishan Gypsum Company, Ltd., to pay seven Virginia families a total of $2,609,129.99 in remediation damages. Taishan is headquartered in Tai’an, China, about 250 miles south of Beijing. The case is captioned Germano, et al. v. Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd., et al., case no. 09-6687. 

The Virginia homeowners are represented by Christopher Seeger and Jeffrey Grand of leading New York plaintiffs’ law firm Seeger Weiss LLP, along with Richard Serpe, Gerald Meunier and Daniel Bryson of New Orleans firm Herman, Herman, Katz & Collar LLP. 

“The message Judge Fallon’s ruling sends to thousands of other homeowners who have been victimized is that help is finally coming–they will be made whole after the ravages of inferior Chinese drywall and will not have to bear the substantial costs of repairing their homes to get rid of it,” said Seeger. 

Seeger noted that representatives from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) observed the Germano trial, which took place in February. “The CPSC has already adopted and publicly endorsed the position we argued at trial, which is that for their safety, homeowners should remove the Chinese drywall and replace any system it has damaged, such as wiring or plumbing or sprinklers,” Seeger said. “The Germano case is just the opening salvo in what we hope will be a national effort to make families whole again for having to live with this shoddy, corrosive and toxic gypsum material in their homes.” 

Seeger Weiss is also representing a Louisiana plaintiff who rebuilt his home with Taishan products after Hurricane Katrina and is now forced to renovate again, what Seeger called “a double whammy that has hit many Gulf Coast residents trying to rebuild after a barrage of destructive storms.” The firm represents a number of other Gulf region homeowners in a trial beginning in June.

All of the cases are being heard in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Seeger was appointed by Judge Fallon to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and also chairs the Trial Committee, which directs the trial teams handling all Chinese drywall cases.

The victory for Virginia homeowners is the fourth consecutive high-profile win for Seeger Weiss in 2010. In February, the firm obtained a $25 million damages verdict on behalf of a Florida man who suffered permanent intestinal damage attributed to powerful acne medication Accutane, made by Hoffman-LaRoche. In March, a jury in Missouri awarded a group of Seeger Weiss clients $11 million in damages stemming from noxious odors emanating from a nearby factory hog farm owned by Smithfield Foods–both cases represented the largest financial verdicts to date in Accutane and hog farm odor cases. 

Also in March, Seeger Weiss won a $2.25 million wrongful death verdict on behalf of survivors of a fatal bus crash involving members of a girl’s hockey team from Windsor, Ontario. The trial win in upstate New York was against both a bus and trucking company at fault in the crash.

In the drywall case decided on April 8, Judge Fallon heard plaintiffs describe a range of calamities caused by the Taishan drywall, including its unpleasant acrid smell, corrosion of electric wires and appliances, and physical symptoms such as difficulty breathing, headaches, rashes and nosebleeds caused by the gases released. 

In addition, several homeowners paid for multiple tests in their homes, and later for temporary places to live when the drywall fumes made their homes uninhabitable. Some families lived with the persistent fear of fire breaking out, due to the corrosion of metal surfaces by sulfur gases from the leeching gypsum. As an added insult, any attempt to remove the offending drywall produced further damage or destroyed household fixtures and furnishings, including kitchen cabinets, countertops, carpet, wall trim, even doorknobs. 

Chinese-made drywall, Judge Fallon wrote in his decision, has significantly higher levels of hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and carbon disulfide–all known irritants to humans–than “typical, benign drywall.” Sulfur gases also release strong odors and are known to corrode various metals.

Judge Fallon concluded, “The Court finds that scientific, economic, and practicality concerns dictate that the proper remediation is to remove all drywall in their homes, all items which have suffered corrosion as a result of the Chinese drywall, and all items which will be materially damaged in the process of removal.”

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