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Chinese Drywall Trial Now Underway Could Set a Standard

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Opening statements were heard yesterday in an important Chinese drywall trial. The case marks the first contested Chinese drywall trial to get underway in the multidistrict litigation that is ongoing in federal court in New Orleans.

Knauf Gips and Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. are named as lead defendants. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Tatum and Charlene Hernandez of Mandeville, Louisiana. The case is being heard by U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon without a jury.

The case is intended as a bellwether, or test trail, to help determine property damage issues in other cases against manufacturers.

It will be up to Judge Fallon to determine the nature and the scope of the remediation and the cost of repairs. Questions of health issues from the drywall will be handled in a later phase of the litigation.

A decision on what needs to be done to fix the Hernandez home and how much it will cost could help establish values that will guide settlement discussions in other cases pending in the multidistrict litigation.

While defendant Knauf acknowledges that its drywall was defective, the company disputes the amount of money the Hernandez family is seeking for remediation. According to a report in Business Week, all parties in the suit agree on the need for removing and replacing drywall, moldings, carpets, a granite countertop and electrical switches and outlets. Other claims, such as wiring, appliances and personal property and the cost of repairs are in dispute.

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