$80 million Chinese drywall deal reached


MANATEE -- Attorneys representing the homeowners affected by Chinese drywall have reached an $80 million class-action settlement with insurance companies for many of the builders and installers of the toxic material.

The settlement has more than 600 defendants, including about 80 insurers and builders such as Lennar, Taylor Morrison, WCI, Aubuchon Homes and First Choice Homes of Southwest Florida, said Arnold Levin, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The class-action settlement covers more than 8,000 homeowners including 4,200 properties that had products from Knauf, a German company that made drywall in China.

"There's more of these homes in Florida than any other state," Levin said. "I can't say exactly how many are in Florida, or the Manatee-Sarasota region, but a portion of them are."

The settlement was discussed at a hearing before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Joseph Farina. It had previously been presented to U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon in New Orleans last week.

The agreement is scheduled to be presented to the courts for final approval during a fairness hearing Nov. 13.

The case covers nearly 9,000 homeowners, many of them in Florida, who suffered losses because the de

fective drywall was used in their homes.

The drywall gives off sulfur gas that corrodes plumbing and has been associated with health problems.

"The goal is to make clients who suffered for years whole for their losses," said Ervin Gonzalez, the co-lead plaintiff's counsel in Florida.

Many of the builders listed as defendants didn't return phone calls Wednesday. Marshall Ames, a spokesperson for Lennar, declined to comment.

The $80 million from the builders and installers' insurance companies will complement another $55 million settlement reached by Banner Supply last year and an $800 million to $1 billion settlement agreed to by Knauf.

Other manufacturers in China have yet to take responsibility.

Between Manatee and Sarasota, 85 homes saw their values drop by $25,000 or more due to defective drywall, according to the Florida Department of Revenue.

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