The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is getting serious about defective Chinese drywall claims. Frustrated by efforts to resolve consumer complaints through international negotiations, the agency has set up a field office in China to work with Chinese manufacturers. The office seeks to ensure that the Chinese government understands, and can more easily comply with, U.S. consumer safety regulations.
Chinese Manufacturing and U.S. Goods
CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum explained that, “By having a proactive preventive posture, we can reduce the number of recalls and keep our consumers safe.” She points out the importance of staying in close communication with China. The country supplies 45 percent of all consumer products in the U.S. market. China and Hong Kong manufacture 90 percent of all toys sold on the American market.
Chinese Drywall Claims
The new CPSC field office will also continue its efforts to address U.S. product safety concerns with Chinese officials. Although some distributors have agreed to reimburse consumers, Chinese manufacturers have so far refused to participate.
An arrangement with German distributor Knauf Plasterboard will benefit about 300 homeowners. Lennar Corp., the third-largest homebuilder in the U.S. has set aside millions to cover claims for damage from defective Chinese drywall. However, the Chinese drywall manufacturers refuse to handle the matter through U.S. courts, leaving thousands of homeowners with few options.
Some homeowners have abandoned their properties after unsuccessful claims. They cannot live in their homes with the noxious smell of sulfur emitted by the drywall. The smell triggers headaches, sinus problems and breathing difficulties. The gas eventually corrodes the electrical wiring and all other metals in the home as well.
Insurance Will Not Pay for the Damage
Homeowner’s insurance is no help either. In one of the hardest hit states, Florida, insurers have been canceling insurance on homes affected by the drywall. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is Florida’s public insurance company for those who cannot secure coverage on the standard market. The company is dropping coverage for hundreds of homeowners who were forced to abandon their homes after Chinese drywall fumes damaged their health. The homeowners cannot stay in their tainted homes, so the insurer is using the vacancy clause in their policies to cancel coverage.
Why Chinese Drywall Defect Claims are Different
The Chinese Drywall case is not easily solved like other defective Chinese product problems. In the past, U.S. distributors agreed to recall defective foreign products voluntarily and offered refunds or replacements to consumers. This method worked well for portable products like toys and small appliances. However, defective drywall requires remediation and replacement of not just the dry wall, but all the corroded metal as well.