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Chinese drywall class action filed in Norfolk

Five Virginia homeowners – on behalf of “hundreds” with similar claims – have filed a class action lawsuit against the manufacturer, supplier, and installers of allegedly-tainted Chinese drywall used in their homes.

Norfolk attorney Richard J. Serpe filed the suit this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.  The action names  Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd., a Chinese company that – according to the lawsuit – is controlled by the Chinese government.  Other defendants are Venture Supply Inc., Harbor Walk Development, LLC and the Porter-Blaine Corp.

The plaintiffs are the owners of three homes, two in Norfolk and one in Courtland, but the suit seeks class action status for all Virginia homeowners with similiar drywall.  The suit claims that the defendants’ “defective and unfit drywall” was installed in “at least hundreds of homes” in Virginia.

The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages, but claims that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million.

This is the first class action suit in Virginia arising out of claims that some Chinese-made drywall emits smelly, corrosive gasses that sicken residents and damage homes.  There are at least ten similar pending federal lawsuits around the country, most in Florida.

Last month, a Virginia Beach couple sued the builder of their home and other defendants in a Chinese drywall claim.  The insurance company for a large homebuilder in Hampton Roads also has gone to court, seeking a declaration that the insurer does not owe coverage for similar claims.

Monday’s Virginia Lawyers Weekly will have a report on the initiation of Chinese drywall litigation in Virginia.

The Norfolk homes involved in the class action lawsuit are both located in the Harbor Walk development, a neighborhood of 240 condominiums and townhomes that was heralded as part of Norfolk’s recent housing renaissance when it was built in 2006.

The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, former Harbor Walk resident Michelle Germano, recently told The Virginian-Pilot she began to get headaches and respiratory symptoms after moving into her condo.  She also said her air conditioning and other appliances failed.

By Peter Vieth

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