There has been a dispute raging in Florida regarding damage done to properties using toxic, Chinese-made drywall. Many insurance companies have denied payment for damaged properties that make use of the material, leaving many homeowners to shoulder the cost of rebuilding after any kind of disaster. The material has also been the cause for some health issues, adding yet another facet to the already murky context of insurance coverage. However, a Florida judge has recently issued a ruling that could change all that.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many were left homeless. A massive recovery effort put a strain on local resources as state’s affected by the disaster tried to regain a semblance of normalcy. Strapped for materials, many contractors turned to Chinese drywall, an inexpensive alternative to native drywall. Unfortunately, the material is poorly made and emits a gas that corrodes metals.
When claims began coming in from homeowners, many were denied outright as companies insisted that they did not cover such damage. Judge Robert Foster, however, argued that the gas emerging from the drywall was an “unforeseen occurrence,” and ruled that there were no specific exclusions in homeowner’s policies that justified denial of coverage.
The state’s insurers are balking at the ruling, many saying that policies were never designed to cover defective materials and defective building practices. Anthony Martino, a lawyer based in Tampa, Florida, says that “this is no different than any other unexpected loss and should be treated as such.”
The only remedy to Chinese drywall is to completely rebuild the house, taking care to strip the material out wherever it may be.