Lowe’s Drywall Settlement Under Scrutiny
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received over 3,500 complaints from individuals in 38 states relating to defective drywall. Though a majority of these complaints come from Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, the problem has the potential to affect consumers nationwide.
Many of the affected homes were built or repaired in 2006 and 2007 after the previous year’s hurricane season increased the demand for drywall. As a result of the domestic shortage, the drywall suspected in many of these cases was imported from China. Consumers have filed numerous lawsuits across the U.S., and a judge overseeing the federal cases expects as many as 40,000 plaintiffs to join class action lawsuits according to a Bloomberg report.
The defective drywall can release chemicals that, aside from health concerns, can cause a strong sulfur odor and corrode metal or copper pipes in homes.
Lowe’s, the retail home improvement store, entered into a settlement that will affect customers nationwide. According to a report in ProPublica, the settlement for a case filed in a Georgia state court will total $6.5 million dollars. The attorneys for the plaintiffs will receive an additional $2.1 million.
The report also notes that the compensation provided to victims will be largely in the form of Lowe’s gift cards ranging from $50 to $2,000. However, those who can show they have suffered damages beyond the $2,000 amount may also receive up to $2,500 in cash.
Lowe’s denies that the drywall sold in its stores was defective and notes that its vendors have assured the company that none of the drywall was imported from China.
Amount and Structure of Settlement Questioned
Critics have already begun to question the settlement. The amount seems low to many following the case, especially since a Florida jury returned a $2.5 million verdict for one couple earlier this year. Armin and Lisa Seifart purchased their home in 2008 and began to notice a sulfur smell almost immediately.
They also experienced repeated issues with their appliances. After only a year in the home, they learned the drywall used to build the home was responsible for the issues and brought suit against the suppliers.
Also, as noted in the ProPublica report, potential plaintiffs will not be sent a notice of the settlement as is often the case in class action suits. Instead, the company will start a website and place notices in publications and magazines like Parade. Notices will also be printed at the bottom of receipts issued at Lowe’s stores.
Health Risks of Defective Drywall
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that along with issues relating to smell and corrosion of metal or appliances in the home, there are significant health risks associated with the drywall. Symptoms include:
- Irritated eyes and skin
- Breathing difficulties
- Runny or bloody noses
- Sinus infection
- Increase risk or frequency of asthma attacks.
The CDC also reports that long-term exposure can cause fatigue, memory loss, insomnia and irritability.
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