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Will Contractors Be Let Off the Hook in Defective Products Drywall?

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Bradenton, FLIn this particular instance of defective product personal injury the writing is decidedly on the wall—or IN the wall, as it turns out. Chinese drywall is just the latest addition to the defective products club. The defective products attorney is helping people navigate through a problem they never dreamed would ever become an issue.

DrywallBut it has, with the realization that Chinese drywall—a product sometimes used at the height of the building boom—gives off a toxic stench that corrodes metal and makes people sick. There have been instances where people who own expensive waterfront homes in the Sunshine State can't use them, because the drywall is making them sick.

Now there is a debate raging in the State of Florida as to whether or not contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and various other installers of toxic Chinese drywall should be held accountable for installing the stuff.

The contractors appear to have a friend in State government. According to reports Manatee State Senator Mike Bennett attempted on three separate occasions to introduce amendments to existing legislative bills that would effectively limit the liability of contractors, suppliers and installers with regard to the defective products.

Each time, homeowners caught in the defective drywall mess have cried out loud and hard, stalling the amendments. It has been reported that the State Senator, who lists his occupation as an electrical contractor, both filed and then withdrew the amendments April 27th and April 28th.

Bennett, in a report published in the Bradenton Herald on May 8th, denied that he withdrew the amendments under pressure from homeowners. He also claimed that he expected the amendments would never pass anyway and that his true intent was simply to draw attention to the issue.

The amendments, it has been reported, would have absolved all contractors and suppliers of toxic Chinese drywall of any liability whatsoever unless it could be proven that they had prior knowledge of the problematic drywall and its toxic effects.

Critics of the amendments claim that they would have stood Florida's existing bylaws when it comes to constriction liability on their ear. The State puts the responsibility for defective products supplied to the consumer squarely on the shoulders of contractors and installers.

Those statutes and liability standards have been on the Florida State books for 100 years or more.

China has been the brunt of much criticism over the past several years with regard to scores of defective and often harmful products. Toxic Chinese drywall is a relatively new phenomenon and may never have become an issue at all were it not for the building boom that immediately preceded the implosion of the housing industry.

In Florida particularly, houses were going up so fast and the demand so high that builders could not acquire sufficient amounts of drywall—usually manufactured in the US—in order to finish a project.

At that point, contractors and suppliers looked outside of their normal supply chain for material and many looked to China.

It has since been determined that something in the Chinese drywall emits a chemical that is powerful enough to corrode and blacken electrical boxes and air conditioning coils. Residents complain of a foul, acrid odor and many live in fear for their health.

A few large contractors driving multiple units in major developments are repairing and replacing the vilified drywall without cost to the consumer. However not all contractors, subs or their suppliers feel they should be held liable for a product that more than likely is manufactured in an environment and using materials not in keeping with the best manufacturing practices of the industry. There is speculation that water used to manufacture the defective product that is Chinese drywall may have been contaminated. Such contamination is now in the product itself and leeches out over time.

Contractors have made the point that they can't be expected to chemically test offshore drywall for fitness and toxicity and that the manufacturer should be held accountable.

Either way, it doesn't help the homeowner who accepted materials from contactors and installers in good faith, only to have their health and livelihoods compromised.

For the time being affected homeowners in Florida have no other recourse but to either put up with their abode, or move out until the toxicity is gone. That usually means a complete replacement of drywall. One concerned owner of a condo containing defective product under her picture frames told the Canadian investigative radio program 'As It Happens' that she is afraid the entire building would have to come down if the problem was not addressed in short order. She is one of the affected homeowners who can no longer set foot in her southern home.

It's just too toxic.

Manufacturers have a responsibility to provide products to consumers free of defects. When defective products become a problem—and worse, cause defective product personal injury—a defective products attorney is often your last line of defense when all other avenues fail. So far some 70 lawsuits are in the works, with more expected.

In a report released May 7th, the Florida Department of Health listed a total of 349 residential drywall complaints thus far.

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