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Chinese drywall litigation on fast track

Property damage trials in the Chinese drywall litigation are likely to start within the next six months in federal court in New Orleans.

Russ Herman, plaintiffs’ liaison counsel in the federal multi-district litigation, said up to 80,000 Gulf Coast homes may have been damaged by the toxic drywall.

The cases have been consolidated in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana under Judge Eldon E. Fallon.

Tainted Chinese drywall was used to rebuild homes damaged in Hurricane Katrina and other storms. Most of the cases are centered in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Herman, senior partner at Herman, Herman, Katz & Cotlar in New Orleans, was named plaintiffs’ liaison counsel earlier this month. About 150 plaintiffs’ lawyers with drywall cases attended an organizational meeting last week.

“The Chinese drywall has impurities in it, particularly high sulfur content,” Herman said. “When there’s a lot of heat and humidity, sulfur produces gas, can corrode plumbing and electrical systems and cause physical injuries.”

Herman’s firm has already been involved in more than 100 inspections of homes damaged by the toxic drywall. Many of his clients lost their original homes in Katrina, and have been struggling to rebuild their homes and lives, he said.

“This is a real, triple insult – to have your home destroyed by Katrina, then to live in a formaldehyde FEMA trailer and then to rebuild your home with toxic materials,” Herman said. “It’s just nasty.”

Kerry J. Miller, a partner at Frilot in New Orleans, is liaison counsel for the defendants. Class-action suits allege that Knauf Gips KG, a German drywall manufacturer, used tainted drywall from its Chinese subsidiary. Others involved in the litigation include national home builder Lennar Homes, which has sued Knauf over the drywall.

Judge Fallon has already indicated “that he intends to fast-track inspections and property damage trials,” Herman said.

“This case in its initial stage is going to move very rapidly,” he commented.

Personal injury trials will be scheduled after property damage trials, Herman said. Claims for personal injuries, including eye, ear, nose, throat and lung injuries, are still being investigated, he said.

Questions and comments can be directed to the writer at: nora.tooher@lawyersusaonline.com

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