The high price of cost cutting in building materials continues to rear its head as the Chinese drywall issue again appears on appeals court dockets. As long as nine years ago, Taishan Gypsum sold contaminated drywall to U.S. builders and contractors engaged in residential construction in Florida and Louisiana. Nearly 250,000 sheets of drywall were delivered, representing profits in the amount of nearly $1 million for the Chinese manufacturer.
After the product was installed, health and safety consequences were apparent. Occupants complained to residential construction companies about respiratory irritation, headaches and eye problems. Other consequences also took the form of damage to electrical wiring, HVAC equipment and home electronics. In Florida alone, more than 3,000 residents reported one or more mysterious symptoms after occupying their new homes. The phenomena was traced to high levels of corrosive sulfur gas emitted from drywall manufactured by Taishan and another Chinese manufacturer Knauf Tianjin. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study declared the Chinese drywall issue “a public health concern.”
While German-owned Knauf Tianjin has already settled claims brought by homeowners, suppliers and builders, as well as established a fund to pay for removal of tainted drywall and new installation, Taishan has continued to mount legal efforts to deflect full liability. These time-consuming tactics have delayed compensation or remediation from Taishan, despite the fact that the company has repeatedly lost in court. Most recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District ruled against Taishan’s claim that Florida legal standards could not be applied to a Chinese manufacturer.
While ultimate legal resolution of the Chinese drywall issue remains in doubt, one thing is for certain: Florida homeowners with contaminated Taishan drywall are still stuck with the ill effects of it—or with the bill for remediation, if they choose to have it removed and replaced themselves. Furthermore, legal observers theorize that, the longer Taishan is able to delay liability, the less likely it is that homeowners will ever receive any compensation.
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