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Florida Homeowners Win Nearly $2.5M In Nation's First Chinese Drywall Jury Trial

MIAMI - (Mealey's) A Florida jury on June 18 awarded a couple nearly $2.5 million for damages done to their home by Chinese drywall and held a local distributor mostly responsible, according to published reports (Armin Seifart, et al. v. Knauf Gips KG, et al., No. 2009-038887-CA-42, Fla. Cir., 11th Judicial Cir., Miami-Dade Co.).

In February 2008, Armin and Lisa Seifart purchased a home built by Certain Homes Inc. that allegedly contains defective Chinese drywall installed by Mandy's Drywall & Stucco Corp.  They sued Certain Homes and Mandy's Drywall, along with supplier Banner Supply Co. and other entities, in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, stating claims for strict liability, violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, negligence and private nuisance and seeking monetary damages as well as equitable and injunctive relief.

Days before trial commenced against Banner on June 8, Judge Joseph Farina unsealed a confidential settlement agreement between drywall manufacturer Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co. Ltd. (KPT) and Banner from 2007 revealing that KPT agreed to take back all of Banner's unsold drywall, reimburse Banner for storing it and replace it with an equal number of sheets of domestically produced drywall; in return, Banner agreed to remain silent about "any perceived or actual smell or health risks relating to Knauf Tianjin plasterboard or assist any party in pursuing any claims, demands or litigation against Knauf Tianjin."  The parties also released each other from any claims that could arise related to the Chinese drywall.

After eight days of trial, the six-member jury deliberated for about a day before awarding the Seifarts damages approaching $2.5 million.  The award includes $494,000 in remediation costs, $169,000 in temporary housing and moving costs, $1.7 million in loss of enjoyment, and $60,000 in "stigma" damage to the home's value.

The jury assigned 55 percent of the fault to Banner; it assigned 35 percent of the blame to KPT and 5 percent each to importer La Suprema and China-based exporter Rothchilt International, all of which were nonparties to the case.  That could reduce the Seifarts' recovery to about $1.3 million, although their attorney, Ervin Gonzalez of Colson Hicks Eidson in Coral Gables, Fla., told the Miami Herald that he would press for the full amount from Banner.

The award, while significant, is considerably less than the $4.4 million the Seifarts had requested.

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the July issue of Mealey's Litigation Report: Construction Defects. In the meantime, the response to the defendant's motion for directed verdict is available at or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844.  Document #09-100709-006B.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit]

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For more information, call editor Gerald C. Matics at 610-205-1131, or e-mail him at