Credit: Virginian-Pilot

Defective Chinese-made drywall first made the news in 2009. But five years later, some aggrieved homeowners are still waiting for relief. One company in particular, Taishan, has stonewalled U.S. courts for years. But in a surprise move, Taishan agreed last month to pay a federal judgment awarded in favor of seven Virginia homeowners in the continuing lawsuit.

The New York Times has a report here (see: "Chinese Drywall Firm to Pay Damages," by Aaron M. Kessler). "Taishan's lawyers appeared in the New Orleans courtroom with a stunning announcement," the Times reports: "The company would pay the court-ordered damages to the Virginia families it had fought for years to avoid. Those involved in the years-long legal battle say the company's decision could clear a path toward relief for the entire class of victims, though that remains far from certain."

The news surprised everybody, including presiding judge Eldon Fallon, reports the Virginian-Pilot (see: "Chinese drywall company pays $3.2 million to 7"). Fallon was frankly skeptical, asking Taishan's new legal team, "Would you guarantee it, as a firm, that they will pay?" "Well, I can guarantee, your honor, that it has been fully represented to us by our client that they will pay," attorney Bernard Taylor said. Replied Fallon: "See, they did that before, though. That's the problem I have."

But within days, attorneys announced that Taishan had come through with the money for the seven plaintiffs who had won their "bellwether" test case against the Chinese firm (see: "Chinese drywall maker Taishan Gypsum pays $3.2 million judgment, returns to court," by Katherine Sayre).

In a statement, plaintiffs attorneys Russ Herman and Arnold Levin expressed hope that 4,000 homeowners harmed by the same Taishan drywall would also see justice done. "We look forward to balancing the books by securing a resolution in favor of these 4,000 additional claimants whose homes and businesses sustained damages as a result of Taishan's defective drywall, and who, as of yet, are still waiting to be made whole," said the attorneys.

But that final resolution may or may not occur. Taishan's new U.S. legal team isn't talking about the company's views or its intentions, reported the Virginian-Pilot (see: "Question remains: Why did Chinese drywall maker pay?" by Sarah Kleiner Varble).

"Richard Silberberg, partner and co-chairman of the class-action litigation group at the Dorsey law firm in New York, said he has learned through 30 years of representing Asian companies that they aren't prone to settling cases, and tend to wait for consensus before reacting to judgments," reported the Virginian-Pilot. "Asian companies... require an agreement among all of the relevant decision-makers," Silberberg said. "It can slow the process down."