On August 20, 2019, a group of Chinese drywall manufacturers agreed to settle 10-year-old litigation that claimed their drywall was defective. The proposed settlement looks to resolve multi-district litigation that included thousands of individual and class action lawsuits filed on behalf of homeowners who say their properties were damaged by the defendants’ drywall products.
Tell me more about this drywall.
Back in 2005, Hurricanes Rita and Katrina left a devastating path of destruction on the Gulf and East coasts. According to the lawsuits, as people began to rebuild homes and buildings, there was a shortage of building materials. Builders, the cases explain, then turned to Chinese manufacturers to import drywall to use in buildings constructed between 2005 and 2008. The lawsuits allege that this Chinese drywall was defective and began causing problems in consumers’ homes not long after it was installed.
What kinds of problems?
According to the plaintiffs, homeowners began noticing “unpleasant odors” in their homes, which some say affected their health and left them feeling sick. Others have reported that the metal objects in their homes—such as pipes and appliances—began to corrode much more quickly than they should have.
The lawsuits claim these symptoms were caused by sulfur gases emitted from the Chinese drywall. According to the cases, the gypsum in the drywall reacted with other components of the building material and released noxious sulfuric compounds that damaged occupants’ health and their homes.
Which products are included in the settlement?
The products covered by the settlement are drywall materials allegedly sold by Taishan Gypsum Company Ltd. (formerly known as Shandong Taihe Dongxin Co., Ltd.); Taian Taishan Plasterboard Co., Ltd.; Beijing New Building Materials Public Limited Company; Beijing New Building Materials (Group) Co., Ltd.; China National Building Materials Co., Ltd.; and China National Building Materials Group Corporation.
The settlement document specifically names the following products:
BNBM and Dragon Board C&K Chinese Manufacturer #2 (purple stamp) Crescent City Gypsum DUN IMT Gypsum ProWall TAIAN TAISHAN and Taihe edge tape Venture Supply White Edge Tape, boards with no markings or boards with no markings other than numbers or letters
Also included in the suit are additional products attributable to Taishan and the other defendants that are marked with “MADE IN CHINA MEET[S] OR EXCEED[S]” and other drywall products with dimensions of “4feet[x/*]12feet[x/*]1/2inch.”
What relief does the settlement look to provide?
Once the settlement receives final approval, class members may be able to recover reimbursement for damages they suffered, which could include property damage, repair costs, alternative housing expenses, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.
Note: To be clear, you may not receive reimbursement for the full amount of damages you've claimed.
Each class member who submits a valid claim will receive an estimate of the amount he or she will receive from the settlement, but the amount won’t be determined until after the deal receives final approval. The amount you’ll receive will be based on certain criteria, including the size of your property, how much drywall is in your home, and whether you’ve already spent money on repairs.
How can I file a claim?
If you’ve already been identified as a known class member, you don’t have to file a claim. You can check to see if you’re a verified class member by checking if your information is included in a “master spreadsheet” that will be posted on the settlement website—chinesedrywallsettlement.com—once it is up and running. The settlement money will be divided among the people listed in the spreadsheet.
If you already know you’re a member, it would be good to check the master spreadsheet anyway to verify that your information is correct.
What if I’m not on the spreadsheet?
If you don’t find your name on the list once it’s up, you can file a court-approved claim form. You’ll need to provide the following information:
the under air square footage of your property—which means “the area within the Affected Property that receives ventilation from the property’s heating and air systems, not including garages, attics, or basements that are not part of this ventilation system”; proof that your home contains the allegedly defective Chinese drywall; whether you owned the property as of May 23, 2019; whether you repaired, replaced, or otherwise remediated the Chinese drywall before May 23, 2019; and whether you’ve received any prior payments in connection with the claims in this case.
More information about this process will be available on the settlement website.
Importantly, the proposed settlement excludes 498 plaintiffs who were part of a previous settlement with Taishan, so don’t try to file a claim if you were part of the other settlement.
When should I expect to see a check in the mail?
Don’t hold your breath. The proposed settlement still needs to receive preliminary approval from a judge. After that, notices will be sent out to class members and posted in newspapers, and the settlement website will go live. During this time, class members can verify their information in the master spreadsheet or submit claims by a to-be-determined deadline (which will be 30 days after final approval). Only after the judge gives the deal a final OK will settlement checks be mailed out.
Check back here for updates, or head over to the court’s website for an updating timeline of events.