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Boca Lawyer, Not Carl Bernstein, Broke Chinese Drywall Story

In the Hollywood-produced movie about the Chinese drywall controversy, I'm guessing the story will be broken wide open by Zac Efron as ace reporter Carl Bernstein Jr. That would be supercool for me and all the other Efron fans. But in real life, a lawyer in Boca broke the story, which totally does not make for a Hollywood plot.

Allison Grant is the lawyer in the real-life version. She owns a rental property in Port St. Lucie, and back in October, her renters were reporting getting sick from something in the walls. When Grant looked into it, she found out she had Chinese drywall, which is the movie equivalent of having General Zod living in your guest bedroom.

So here's where Grant became Zac Efron.

Or at least, here's where Grant created this website dedicated to Chinese drywall. This was back in November, before any reporters were really writing about it and homeowners were still trying to figure out what the deuce was in their walls.

With her site perhaps the first dedicated to Chinese drywall, Grant started getting calls from all sorts of reporters looking for information. Then her site started compiling news stories and reports of Chinese drywall. "Little by little," she told me, "people started giving me little pieces of information here and there that showed this was a big problem."

Grant says her site gets 10,000 pageviews a week. It comes up No. 2 in a Google search for Chinese drywall, after this Wall Street Journal story written about two months after Grant put up her site.

So there you have it, one of the biggest stories of our time broken by a lawyer from Boca. Yep, just another reason Carl Bernstein and I are being put out of business by the internets.

As for Grant, she turned the success of her site into a new specialty: representing homeowners with Chinese drywall. She takes a tack different from most lawyers; instead of suing, she tries to get the developers to fix the sick homes. She charges a fee that starts at $1,500 to $4,000 and says she typically gets the developer to repair the mess.

Sure, the story won't do so well as an Efron vehicle. But if it happens, I'm going to suggest the working title Erin Brockovich 2: Killer Chinese Drywall. I'm available, by the way, to play the part of the obsolete reporter.

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Eric Barton
Contact: Eric Barton

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