We have been following the continuing saga of the homeowners affected by Chinese drywall used mainly throughout Florida, Louisiana and Virginia when U.S. supplies ran low. According to affected homeowners, the Chinese drywall emits a gas that causes health problems such as headaches and nosebleeds, erodes metal and electrical fixtures, and leaves a foul rotten egg odor throughout the home. The only known remedy—removing and replacing all the Chinese drywall in the home—is costly and to this point has not been covered by insurance. Unable to sell the property, and unable to live in it, some owners have been forced into temporary housing and bankruptcy, the New York Times reports.
Homeowners have filed hundreds of lawsuits against the Chinese companies that manufactured the drywall. These lawsuits, however, face a number of significant hurdles. For one thing, much of the drywall is simply stamped “Made in China,” with no indication of the specific manufacturer. Even when the manufacturer is known, many of them have gone out of business or refuse to respond to the lawsuits. China does not enforce civil judgments from U.S. courts and international court is costly and time-consuming. Some lawyers have proposed creative solutions to the problem, such as seizing the ships that transported the drywall to the U.S., but it’s not clear that any court would approve that remedy.
The affected homeowners may have other avenues for a successful resolution outside of the legal process, however. Congress ordered the Consumer Products Safety Commission to conduct a study of the Chinese drywall. That study, while finding that the Chinese drywall had higher levels of sulfur and strontium than U.S. drywall, was unable to make a connection between those higher levels and the health and other problems experienced by U.S. homeowners. Further testing to establish a connection is under way. The chairwoman of the Consumer Products Safety Commission met recently with Chinese officials and discussed the drywall issue with the hope of reaching some agreement to help U.S. homeowners. Whether political pressure results in any substantial relief for U.S. homeowners remains to be seen.