It's something of a cliché by now to think of Florida developers as the bad guys. But as homeowners start blaming them for the defective Chinese drywall rotting their homes, it is literally the stench that has led them to contractors.
Not the developer's stench, technically, but the rotten eggs smell that fills homes built with Chinese drywall like a flea bomb. The smell is sulfur dioxide, which can potentially become toxic bottled up in homes and has been blamed for major corrosion to as much as 100,000 homes built with Chinese drywall.
Several sources involved with the investigation of Chinese drywall tell The Juice Blog that they've discovered that the developers and their employees knew about the stench while they were installing the defective wall board. Some union workers even refused to work with the Chinese drywall because of the severe sulfur-like smell. They feared that the smell was an indication that the drywall was rotted and could lead to liability later.
Other employees of developers figured out that the smell would subside after the drywall was painted, so workers were told to paint quickly in order to mask the smell.
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Such omissions have come as law firms suing the developers talk to construction workers who hung the defective drywall. One worker told a law firm investigator that records regarding the drywall were kept in a truck "because they didn't want it in one place."
William Anderson, a D.C.-based attorney working on a lawsuit against Miami-based Lennar Homes, says construction workers have reported complaining about the smell of the Chinese drywall. "Once they closed up these houses, hung the windows and installed the roof, you can't imagine how bad it would have smelled in there -- especially without the AC turned on," Anderson said. "They finally figured out that you could mask the smell if you painted it."
Just how high up this goes isn't clear -- nobody's sure if supervisors and top management at the builders knew about the strong smell from the Chinese drywall.
And it could be months before law firms begin asking those questions. Most of the Chinese drywall lawsuits are now on hold until a federal court called the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decides whether to have all the cases heard by one judge. The panel held a hearing last week in Kentucky and is expected to decide in a couple weeks whether to combine them and, if so, where. If the suits are combined, there's a good chance it could end up in Florida, where 15,000 homeowners have joined 150 separate lawsuits.
Besides, it wouldn't be hard to find their way to Florida. Just follow the smell from the developers.