I think we found Chinese Drywall in our home that we purchased last year in 2008. Who is liable for the defective drywall?

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Question: We bought a newly constructed home in 2008. Since we moved in, my family has been having health problems—itchy eyes, sinus problems, my youngest even developed asthma, which she never had before. At the same time, we’ve been having trouble with some of the wiring in our home and with our air conditioning system. A neighbor who’s having similar problems said it’s because of defective Chinese-manufactured drywall. Is there something to this, and what can we do?

Response: It seems that large quantities of drywall manufactured in China in recent years has contained sulfur-emitting compounds, which give off sulfur gases. Since sulfur is a component in, among other things, sulfuric acid, it’s not surprising that high levels of sulfur might damage other materials or pose health issues. There’s also been speculation that the drywall might contain other hazardous materials as well.

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has developed a website specifically to provide information about defective Chinese drywall issues: http://www.cpsc.gov/info/drywall/index.html.

What can you do about it? Legally, if you have hazardous materials in your home’s construction, you can sue the responsible parties—the manufacturer, the importer, the builder, etc. If you don’t want to get your own attorney, you may be able to join an existing lawsuit—for example, a number of Florida homeowners have banded together in a class-action lawsuit. Lawsuits would be for medical costs; for home repair costs and/or diminution of home value; and possibly for pain and suffering as well.

On a non-legal note, I advise all my clients to put health above economics—if your home is hurting your family, if at all possible, either move out (rent, stay with relatives, etc.) or gut the home and replace the drywall (keeping some for evidence, of course!). You can recover for economic losses later, but take care of your health now—and just add the cost of your remedial measures to what you will ultimately sue for.

The Chinese drywall problem seems to be real and if you and your family are victims, you should stand up for your rights.

Answered by Steve Zweig

Additional Resources:

  • Identifying Chinese Drywall
  • Chinese Drywall Problems

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