LITIGATION

Jury awards $1.2 million in Chinese drywall case

 

A Miami jury found the makers of Chinese drywall responsible for damaging a Coconut Grove couple’s house, awarding Jeffrey and Elisa Robin $1.1 million for the faulty building material. The verdict, issued Friday night in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, marks the first time a jury has ruled in a case involving all the defendants in the distribution chain behind the drywall that is the subject of litigation across the country, said the Robins’ attorney, Victor Diaz.

The jury found Knauf Plasterboard, the manufacturer in Tianjin China, and its German affiliate, Knauf Gips, liable for most of the damages caused by the drywall. The Robins sued the makers of the drywall, citing headaches and nosebleeds from foul-smelling gasses emitted from the material, along with damage done to copper pipes and wiring.

Most of the homeowners with claims involving Chinese drywall agreed to a settlement that paid for repairs and relocation expenses, said Joy Lundeen, the Miami-based Stearns Weaver lawyer serving as lead counsel for Knauf. The Robins are part of a “handful” of plaintiffs suing Knauf, Lundeen said.

The jury issued the Knauf entities a total of 94 percent of liability in the Robin case, with the Florida distributor of the drywall, Banner Supply Co., getting 5 percent and the remaining blame assigned to the now-defunct developers, said Diaz, of VM Diaz & Partners in Miam Beach.

With actual damages decided, the trial later this month will move to how much the Knauf companies must pay in punitive damages for the defective material.

DOUGLAS HANKS

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