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Fla. judge grants class-action status for tainted drywall

By Nora Lockwood Tooher
Lawyers USA

Homeowners in a south Florida neighborhood have been granted class-action status in state court to sue realtors and contractors who built and sold them homes made with tainted Chinese drywall.

Jason and Melissa Harrell, the named plaintiffs in the case, are facing foreclosure after being forced to vacate the house they built in Homestead, Fla., in 2008 after their two sons repeatedly became sick from toxic fumes emitted by the drywall, according to Victor Diaz, their attorney.

Diaz, who practices at Podhurst Orseck in Miami, said the class action could include up to 152 homeowners in three subdivisions near where the Harrells live.

The suit names “everyone in the distribution chain, from the importer of the drywall to the installer, developer and seller,” Diaz said.

Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Joseph Farina approved class-action status for the suit last week.

The Harrells have also filed suit in federal court against the Chinese drywall manufacturer Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin. That suit is part of the consolidated federal multi-district litigation pending in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

But that claim, like other individual lawsuits, could take years to resolve, according to Diaz.

The hope is that grouping the claims into a class action will bring “relief for the homeowners faster,” he said.

“If you have to resolve these claims on a case-by-case basis it will take years for homeowners to get fully compensated.”

The class action seeks remediation of the homes, at a cost of $79 to $93 a square foot, as well as relocation, moving expenses and related damages.

Diaz said he expects the trial in Florida state court to begin in late summer.

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