February 24, 2009
Firm asks to merge drywall lawsuits
Separate filings may consolidate
By MARY WOZNIAK
Several class action lawsuits filed over installation of apparently defective Chinese drywall may wind up in one federal court before one judge, representing thousands of litigants.
A Palm Beach County law firm has asked for the consolidation of the cases into one district by a federal panel, to avoid duplication of effort and ensure efficiency.
The firm, Leopold~ Kuvin P.A. of Palm Beach Gardens, also filed its own class action lawsuit on behalf of a Martin County couple who had to move out of their town house due to the drywall, said Gregory Weiss, a attorney for the firm who is handling the case.
But there are other cases out there and the class action covers anyone, not just Martin and Palm Beach counties, Weiss said.
"I know of greater than 10," he said of the two counties. "We've had a hundred phone calls."
The firm has not heard a response to its motion to consolidate, he said.
In addition, the filing of another class action lawsuit is pending, this time in response to at least a dozen drywall cases reported in South Carolina and Alabama, said Gary Mason of The Mason Law Firm LLP, based in Washington, D.C.
"I mean it's imminent," Mason said Monday. "We are proceeding apace. Things are checking out and going down the right path."
The drywall is said by building experts to have been used between 2004 and 2007 due to a shortage in building materials in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.
The drywall is suspected of causing corrosion of metals inside homes, a noxious smell, and possible long term health problems.
The first class action lawsuit in the drywall controversy was filed Jan. 30 in federal court in Southwest Florida by Morgan & Morgan and Parker Waichman Alonso LLP.
"It is a case headed toward a federal multi-district litigation," said Scott Weinstein of Morgan & Morgan, co-counsel in the case.
Then a panel of lawyers will be chosen to act as a plaintiff steering committee to manage these cases on behalf of the entire mass of clients, Weinstein said.
This means a morass of claims and counter-claims, builders against suppliers and manufacturers, consumers against builders, suppliers and manufacturers, "and of course, suppliers vs. manufacturers," Weinstein said.