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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Aug. 12 (UPI) — Chinese drywall cases consolidated in a Florida county may move forward without waiting for rulings in drywall cases filed in federal courts, a judge ruled.
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley’s decision rejected arguments by builder Centerline Homes Inc. of Coral Springs, Fla., and Miami drywall distributor Banner Supply Co. that the cases should be stayed until federal cases are resolved.
More than 2,100 U.S. homeowners have filed federal suits claiming their homes were damaged or ruined by defective drywall that gives off noxious odors and chemicals that can corrode wiring, plumbing and heating equipment.
Kelley’s ruling is “really a huge win, because now … we’re able to begin going forward on Chinese drywall cases in Palm Beach County,” David Durkee, plaintiff’s liaison council for the consolidated cases, told The Palm Beach Post. “Now we can resolve the cases or have our day in court.”
Seventy-four cases alleging defective drywall — some for Chinese-made drywall and others alleging similar problems with U.S. wallboard — are pending in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
No trial date is set, but Durkee said he hoped to go to trial by early next year.
The drywall in question is linked to respiratory and electrical problems in thousands of new homes, mostly in Florida and Louisiana. Consumer advocates argue high levels of hydrogen sulfide in the drywall can create health risks as well as corrode electrical wires.
The drywall was installed in homes across the South for about eight years during the housing boom that began in 2000. At that time, U.S.-made drywall was limited in supply and Chinese materials were cheap. Construction surged after hurricanes devastated many parts of the Gulf Coast.
The U.S. government April 2 instructed families with allegedly tainted drywall to rid their homes of the material and replace electrical wiring, gas pipes and sprinkler systems.
Homeowners would have to front the cost, which builders estimate at more than $100,000 per home.