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Chinese Drywall Maker To Pay For Renovation

Wed, 04/28/2010 - 3:59am
Michael Kunzelman, Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday awarded more than $164,000 to a Louisiana family whose home was ruined by Chinese-made drywall and said the tainted material must be removed.

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon's latest ruling comes less than a month after he awarded $2.6 million to seven Virginia families. His earlier decision was the first of its kind for a batch of federal lawsuits over drywall-tainted homes.

Fallon, who presided over a trial without a jury, ruled that the Hernandez family's home needs to gutted. He also agreed with the family's lawyers that all electrical wiring, plumbing components, the heating and air conditioning system and appliances have to be removed and replaced at the expense of drywall manufacturer Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co.

The family was seeking more than $200,000 to fix their home, but plaintiffs' attorney Steve Herman said they were still pleased.

"I think Judge Fallon's ruling is a very good indication that people who have Chinese drywall will receive the remediation they're entitled to," Herman said.

Knauf had argued that the family's home can be repaired for less than $59,000.

Knauf attorney Don Hayden said the company may appeal the judge's ruling because the scientific evidence showed a home with the material could be repaired at a more reasonable cost than what was awarded.

Hayden noted that guidelines issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission didn't call for completely gutting homes.

He said in a statement that the company was prepared to work with homeowners to repair the problem.

Fallon's award to the Hernandez family includes $136,940 for fixing the home and $5,357 for replacing personal property.

"The award he gave is going to be more than sufficient to remedy the Hernandez home," said plaintiffs' attorney Christopher Seeger.

Knauf had participated in this trial. Taishan Gypsum Co., the company named as a defendant in the Virginia families' trial, did not participate and has not responded to lawsuits.

Fallon's rulings only have covered property damage and haven't considered possible health problems. The first cases with medical claims won't be considered by the court until late 2010 or early 2011.

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