In a Florida courtroom yesterday, Armin Seifart told of how he and his Jamaican-born wife Lisa paid $1.6 million cash for a five-bedroom, five-bath home in Coconut Grove, complete with a lush backyard reminiscent of Lisa's homeland.
According to an account today in the Miami Herald, it wasn't long before the Seifarts were forced from their home. So far they have spent another $705,000 gutting and rebuilding the home and have also incurred the expense of living in a rental property while their home is being renovated.
During testimony at trial on June 15, Seifart noted an odd smell coming from the home even before he and his family moved in. When he inquired about the odor, Seifart was told it was the smell either of new construction or of a broken septic tank in the area.
When the smell persisted, the Seifarts looked more closely into the matter. Their pipes were corroding, wiring was becoming damaged and appliances were ruined. Concerned for their health of their young sons, the Seifarts moved out.
Seifart, senior counsel for Chevron, soon set upon rebuilding the family's dream home.
During testimony it was revealed that Banner Supply, the Miami business that supplied the drywall to the builder, was hearing numerous complaints from builders and installers about a powerful smell originating from the drywall. Banner, in turn, sought an arrangement with Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin (KPT) to trade Banner's unused supply of Chinese drywall for an American-made product.
That discussion allegedly took place and the agreement was signed well before Seifart and his family moved into their Coconut Grove home. Banner reportedly concedes that the drywall is defective, but according to the Miami Herald wants to avoid paying damages beyond the value of rebuilding the home and paying for their rental accommodation.
Legal counsel for the plaintiffs note that the defendant knew about the drywall problems but failed to forewarn people whose homes may be affected.
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"This has been a horrible experience," she said. "I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy.''
Meanwhile, in Louisiana a state bill aimed at protecting Chinese drywall homeowners from retaliation from insurance companies cleared the state Senate late on the evening of June 15 and headed to Governor Bobby Jindal, who could sign the measure into law.
The bill was originally intended solely for business owners, but quickly expanded to include homeowners with defective Chinese drywall. Insurance companies are prevented from dropping or refusing to renew policies on houses containing Chinese drywall—or retaliating if a homeowner files a claim with regard to drywall problems.