A little over a year ago, the Florida Department of Health and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) first started receiving complaints about toxic drywall. The drywall, made in China, was corroding appliances, giving off a foul sulfur smell, and causing numerous respiratory problems for hundreds of homeowners.
A year later, the CPSC has received thousands of complaints, and over 2,000 homeowners are part of a class action suit against one Chinese manufacturer, with other classes still to be filed.
The first trial will begin this month in New Orleans, record speed for such a complicated case involving foreign manufacturers, home builders, contractors, and building suppliers. The trial date is just two months after the CPSC released the results of their investigation, linking the Chinese-made drywall to corrosion and sulfuric gas.
Last month, the Sarasota Herald Tribune published a series of articles about the people and legal case behind Chinese drywall. Several of these homeowners lost everything during Hurricane Katrina, only to suffer a similar fate when their new house succumbed to the toxicity of Chinese drywall.
While trial attorneys have been maligned and denigrated over the years - often by corporate interests and their allies - these articles show how they are serving the people devastated by this Chinese drywall disaster. Without their assistance, homeowners would have little chance at justice or another opportunity to rebuild.
The attorneys, having conducted their own testing, knew the Chinese drywall was problematic last spring, if not earlier, while the government took many, many months to formally recognize the drywall's problems. While the government is still seeking answers on what to do and how to do it, homeowners and affected families can't wait.
The upcoming trial will hopefully bring some long-awaited aid to homeowners, many who have been living in their toxic houses or renting others places to stay while still paying mortgages on their defective properties.
One homeowner featured in the Herald Tribune series is Kitty Banner. Kitty spent nearly her entire life in St. Bernard Paris before being evacuated because of Hurricane Katrina. In June 2006, Banner and her husband built a new house in Covington in St. Tammany Parish, across from Lake Ponchartrain. She thought she had a new, fresh start, only to learn her new home was contaminated with Chinese drywall.
Banner said, "I just don't know what to do. I don't want anything from these people other than they fix my house. I just want some peace, you know. We planned to one day leave this house to my kids, we wanted this to be where our family put down its roots again."
And now, her home is worthless.
This current Chinese drywall disaster is emblematic of the important work trial attorneys do. Without a strong civil justice system, Americans would have little recourse when injured by unsafe products. All Americans benefit when the individuals attorneys represent have a fair chance to get justice through our civil justice system.