The wave of complaints about drywall contamination has led attorneys in Florida and several southern states to file class action lawsuits on behalf of homeowners. Other consumers have filed individual lawsuits. In April 2010, a federal court awarded $2.6 million to a number of Virginia families whose homes were damaged by bad drywall.
Lawsuits over Chinese drywall use a number of legal theories to seek money damages. These theories include negligence, strict product liability, breach of warranty, fraudulent misrepresentation, and fraudulent concealment. The elements of each legal theory vary but, for the most part, consumers must prove that the toxic drywall caused a defective condition within the home or caused someone in the home to become ill. (To learn more about the legal theories used in toxic tort cases, see Nolo's article Toxic Torts: Legal Theories of Liability.)
Who to Sue
If you have been injured or suffered property damage from contaminated drywall, figuring out who to sue can be tricky. As a general rule in these types of cases, plaintiffs usually sue anyone that could have a possible link to the drywall, such as:
- the drywall manufacturer
- drywall importers
- the builder
- drywall installers, and
- anyone else that is involved in the drywall distribution chain.
Homeowners' Insurance Claims
It may be wise to also file a claim against your homeowners' insurance policy. So far, insurance companies have maintained that they are not liable for contaminated drywall, often citing pollution exclusions in the policy. However, courts have yet to rule on this issue. It's possible that at a later date courts will require some homeowners' insurance policies to cover homeowner losses caused by contaminated drywall. So file a claim to be on the safe side.
What to Do If You Suspect Problem Drywall in Your Home
The CPSC recommends the following steps if you suspect you may have problem drywall in your home:
- If you have adverse health symptoms, see your doctor immediately.
- If you have safety concerns about electrical problems or fire hazards, consult with an electrician or building inspector immediately.
- Report the suspected drywall problem to the CPSC by calling 800-638-2772 or visiting the CPSC's Drywall Information Center at www.cpsc.gov/info/drywall/index.html.
- Consider reporting the problem to your homeowner's insurance company and the homebuilder or remodeler that installed the drywall.
The legal landscape regarding contaminated drywall is still developing. Class action lawsuits have been filed, the liability of homeowners insurance companies may be challenged in court, and the CPSC or other agencies continue to investigate the problem. If you suspect you have contaminated drywall, in addition to alerting the CPSC, you may wish to contact an attorney specializing in drywall litigation to find out the current status of the law, as well as insurance coverage issues.
For help in choosing a good personal injury attorney, read Nolo's article Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer. Or go to Nolo's Lawyer Directory for a list of personal injury attorneys in your geographical area (click on the "Types of Cases" and "Work History" tabs to find out about the lawyer's experience, if any, with toxic tort litigation).
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