Florida attorneys David Durkee and Victor Diaz have convinced a Miami-Dade circuit court judge to allow them and their clients to pursue punitive damages against foreign Chinese drywall manufacturers.

Miami-Dade Civil District Court Judge Joseph Farina's ruling is the first in the country in relation to lawsuits over defective Chinese drywall that has affected residents across the Gulf Coast.

The plaintiffs claim that the Chinese drywall they bought and installed in their homes was defective, made from toxic chemicals and led to corroding pipes and a rotten egg smell in their homes.

Thousands of homes across the Gulf Coast were sold the allegedly defective drywall in the rebuilding following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In a statement released to the press, Diaz said that "this is just the beginning" and that his firm will seek as much punitive damages from German company Knauf Gips and its Chinese counterpart Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin.

Durkee said that in order to qualify for punitive damages, "you have to lay a foundation of evidence that suggests a reckless disregard for the safety of others, and our arguments against Knauf proved just that."

Durkee and Diaz represent hundreds of plaintiffs with claims against Chinese drywall manufacturers, distributors and contractors. They recently successfully opted out their clients from a $54.5 million federal settlement with a Miami-based supplier.

Broward County District Court Judge Charles Green held that "the supplemental orders conditionally certifying class, and the federal court's provision for related procedures, the stay order is no longer a bar to any Plaintiff who seeks relief outside of the [multidistrict litigation] in a State Court."

In June, U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon gave preliminary approval to a proposed $54.5 million settlement that would dismiss the approximately 3,000 claims brought against Banner Supply Co. in Miami and its insurers.

Fallon is overseeing the massive multidistrict litigation (MDL) brought on by more than 10,000 claims against Chinese drywall manufactures and distributors. The case is taking place in U.S. District Court for the Easter District of Louisiana.

Federal MDL 2:09-md-02047

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