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MDL Ordered for Chinese Drwall Lawsuits, Cases Moved to New Orleans

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A panel of federal judges has decided to consolidate Chinese drywall lawsuits in a multidistrict litigation (MDL)  and move them to federal court in New Orleans.

An MDL allows all cases to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses and the court. When lawsuits are consolidated as an MDL each retains its own identity. If the MDL process does not resolve the cases, they are transferred back to the court where they originated for trial.

Homeowners in at least 18 states have complained that fumes from Chinese-made drywall produce a “rotten eggs” odor and cause metals, such as air conditioning coils, to corrode. The fumes have also been associated with respiratory and sinus problems in some residents. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the U.S. imported roughly 309 million square feet of drywall from China during the housing boom from 2004 to 2007.

Yesterday’s decision by the the Judicial Panel on  Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in Louisville, Kentucky, means that right now, a total of 10 suits pending in federal courts in Florida,  Louisiana and Ohio will move to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans.   Eventually, as many as 1000 such lawsuits from across the country could be headed to New Orleans, Law.com said.

In their order, the panel cited the experience of Judge Eldon E. Fallon, who will preside over the Chinese drywall lawsuits.   Judge Fallon is a veteran of such large scale litigation, and most recently oversaw a settlement in the consolidated class action against the manufacturers of the drug Vioxx.  Fallon has been on the federal bench since 1995.

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