Florida judge overrules Banner class action settlement

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An importer of allegedly defective Chinese drywall could be hit with a flood of new lawsuits from Florida homeowners after a court ruling opened the door to additional litigation. Broward County Florida Circuit Judge Charles Greene on Monday ruled that hundreds of residents can file separate lawsuits against Chinese drywall distributor, Banner Supply Co., if they are unsatisfied with the proposed $55 million class action settlement. Banner was a supplier of Chinese-made drywall that lawsuits have said was defective, emitted sulfur gases, corroded wiring, contaminated fabrics and wrecked air conditioners and other appliances.

Before Friday's ruling by Judge Charles Greene, Broward homeowners were barred from pursuing individual claims against Banner by a temporary court order issued by a judge in New Orlean. The $55 million settlement was intended to compensate the owners of some 3,000 homes across Florida.

Attorneys representing South Florida residents whose homes had been tainted by the defective drywall said many victims have complained that their share of the settlement against Banner Supply Co. wouldn’t be enough to repair their homes.

Judge Charles Greene said plaintiffs who would receive part of the proposed Banner settlement should advise the court whether they want to opt out of the class settlement that affects around 2,000 Florida homeowners.

The number of victims across the South entitled to a share of the class action settlement is unclear. Builders, drywall installers and remodelers that have been sued as well may want a part of the settlement because they blame distributors such as Miami-based Banner for their legal woes. If Greene's ruling set a precedent in the case, as many as 1,500 previously filed lawsuits against Banner in Florida could now go forward.

Banner supported the class settlement but oppose allowing homeowners to opt out because it could mean they would face additional individual lawsuits.

Banner also is suing German company Knauf Gips for $100 million, claiming Knauf knew about the odor and that the drywall would cause damage to homes.


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