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Drywall plaintiffs get appeals court win

Seven Virginia homeowners seeking $2.6 million for damages blamed on toxic Chinese drywall will be allowed to pursue recovery from a Chinese company under a ruling Tuesday from a federal appeals court.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court decision that the court had jurisdiction over Chinese manufacturer Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd.

The appeals court decision could open the door for other homeowners to maintain claims against Taishan for damages to their homes and lives because of noxious fumes from tainted imported wallboard.

The decision is “big news,” said Richard J. Serpe, the Norfolk lawyer who represents the Virginia homeowners.

Without legal jurisdiction over the Chinese company, the homeowners likely would have no means of collecting their judgments for property damage and health problems.

The 5th Circuit panel said Taishan took “active steps” to “purposefully direct its product toward Virginia” when it designed and packaged its drywall for a Virginia supplier.

Taishan could request rehearing by the full 5th Circuit and also request review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, Serpe said Tuesday’s ruling is “giving everyone a renewed sense of confidence and energy to get this resolved with Taishan.”

If the judgment becomes final, Serpe said he hopes the company “will step up and say, ‘let’s get this thing done so the victims can get on with their lives as well.'”

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