RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Virginia now has a task force to look into defective drywall from China that has forced some families from the Hampton Roads area to move out of their homes. But for some of those families there has been a resolution.
Last month a New Orleans federal judge awarded seven eastern Virginia families $2.6 million in damages for homes ruined by sulfur-emitting drywall, made in China. It's a decision that could affect how lawsuits by thousands of others are settled.
"Today a federal judge validated what we've known for a long time," said homeowner Steve Heischober.
And what Steve & Liz Heischober have known for a long time is that their Virginia Beach dream home was just too toxic for them to remain there. They left the house more than a year ago, because of all the sulfur seeping from defective Chinese drywall.
They testified in the federal case in New Orleans, telling the judge how the drywall literally ruined their wiring, air conditioners, and even poisoned the air in their own home.
"You have to get rid of everything that absorbed all this sulfur gas," said Steve.
And the judge agreed. In his 100-page ruling, he said the drywall should be removed, along with the cabinets, appliances, electrical outlets, even the flooring from the impacted homes. He also said the Chinese manufacturer should pay to rebuild for all seven families involved in the suit.
Not only is the company on the hook for repair costs, the judge said it must also pay for their rental fees, and any mortgage deferral costs. Plus,each family gets an additional $100,000 for their trouble. For the Heischobers, that's a grand total of more than $480,000.
"We can't move back into our house until we actually get some type of settlement, money. It was a little bit of a relief just to know the judge had ruled in favor of the drywall victims of Chinese drywall," said Liz.
But here's the catch: China doesn't recognize the authority of a U.S. federal judge and can't be compelled to pay the damages. There are other remedies, the company's U.S. assets can be confiscated, but that could take years.