The gargantuan class action complaint regarding defective drywall imported from China has been filed in a Louisiana federal court, but the filing doesn't forestall the possibility of additional future litigation.
The suit, which has been in the works for months, is being brought on behalf of approximately 2,100 individual residents of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, represented by a number of firms.
Around 600 homeowners registered for the suit but missed last Friday's deadline. Lead attorney Russ Herman is already discussing plans to file an additional suit on their behalf.
The action's main target is Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin (KPT), the Chinese company that manufactured the bulk of the drywall at issue. The complaint, which clocks in at 591 pages, includes an "Exhibit B" which lists scores of other defendants.
In an interesting twist, the action's lead plaintiff is none other than Sean Payton, head coach of the New Orleans Saints. Under Payton's leadership, the Saints have had a very good year, currently sitting atop the NFC South at 12-0. The Saints are the only team in the NFL besides the Indianapolis Colts to remain undefeated this late in the season.
Payton's luck on the field, however, ran into a barrier of defective drywall problems off the field.
The 45-year-old coach had to move his family out of their house in Mandeville, a suburb of New Orleans, after computers and other electronics in his house began to fail and his family came down with mysterious illnesses. Payton was one of the first people in the state to report drywall-related problems, which factored into his being named lead plaintiff.
Daniel Becnel, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, said that Payton had to deal with the issue while gearing up for training camp and the 2009 season, compounding already considerable stress.
Payton's house, like most affected by the problem, was built in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The storm led to a construction boom that left American-manufactured drywall in short supply, opening the door to cheap foreign wallboard. The defective drywall emits an egg-like sulfur smell, corrodes metal fixtures, and can cause health problems ranging from wheezing to asthma and even pneumonia. The bulk of affected homes are those built or remodeled between 2004 and 2008.
KPT's lawyer, Kerry Miller, maintains that no one outside of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi is affected, because the drywall was shipped exclusively to ports in Louisiana and Florida. But complaints have been lodged in no fewer than 32 states, and an investigation by advocacy group America's Watchdog indicates that the drywall has been imported to "potentially all regions" of the country.
America's Watchdog suggests that complaints have so far been concentrated in the Southeast because of that region's high humidity, which could accelerate the wallboard's tendency to deteriorate metal and human health. The group thinks the problem is so widespread that it needs to be dealt with under the federal Superfund statute, which sets aside money for cleanup of toxic sites and then seeks reimbursement from responsible parties.
The complaint includes 15 counts, including negligence, breach of contract, breach of express and implied warranties, nuisance, unjust enrichment, and violation of several Louisiana consumer protection laws.