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Drywall Litigation Lawyers Turn Focus to Possible Compensation Scenarios

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Jupiter, FLMore homeowners in Florida have joined the apparently non-stop train of Americans plagued by toxic Chinese drywall. Attorney Alan Linkhorst has recently filed a class action on behalf of about 25 unit owners at the Renaissance Commons in Boynton Beach.

"Our goal obviously is to get a good resolution for our clients," says Linkhorst. "We don't know at this point what the defendants will be willing to do."

Linkhorst is a board certified construction lawyer and name partner in the firm of Linkhorst and Hockin in Florida, a state that has been particularly hard hit by toxic drywall.

Drywall manufactured primarily in China and imported for use during the building boom several years ago is believed to cause houses to literally rot. Toxic fumes from the drywall are alleged to have blackened and destroyed copper used in plumbing and heating equipment and even tarnished silverware.

Many homeowners report health problems such as asthma, nosebleeds and headaches. The Renaissance Commons suit focuses strictly on damage to property, negligence and breach of warranty. The builder, Coastal Condominiums, the drywall supplier Precision Drywall, as well as the company that offered the units for sale, RCR Holdings II, are named as defendants in the suit.

Dozens of the so-called Chinese Drywall cases have been consolidated in a massive multi-district litigation (MDL) process that is now underway in Louisiana. The first trials are expected to begin in the New Year.

Because Linkhorst's Renaissance suit has been filed in state court and not in federal court, it will not be folded into the MDL.

However, Linkhorst says he and other lawyers will be watching the outcome of the MDL and expect it to set the pattern for resolving Chinese Drywall suits. "We are hoping that process will provide a template for our cases and other attorneys handling these cases throughout the country," he says.

Many attorneys--Linkhorst included--have begun to lay out possible compensation scenarios for their clients, but given the extent and complexity of the damage to homes, it is a challenging task.

"There are arguments about whether or not simply replacing the affected drywall will be sufficient or whether it will be necessary to rip out and replace the electrical, the plumbing or the air conditioning system," says Linkhorst.

"There is also the question of dealing with personal possessions that have been affected. Most electronics have copper wiring in them," Linkhorst adds. "There is a question of moving out, cleaning out and storing of personal possessions while the remediation is being done."

It is fair to say that the Chinese Drywall debacle is a disaster for homeowners, builders, suppliers, and lawyers. Should the courts rule in favor of homeowners and builders who agree simply to replace damaged parts of the home without any financial compensation, some lawyers are wondering how they are going to get paid.

Alan Linkhorst is a name partner with the construction law firm of Linkhorst and Hockin.The firm is based in Jupiter, Florida and has six attorneys on staff. Linkhorst has been a practicing lawyer for 15 years and represents developers, contractors and subcontractors and homeowners in disputes with builders./

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