Florida Keys News
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Mansion bought for $2.75M was built with toxic drywall

The toxic Chinese drywall used in one couple's Cudjoe Key luxury dream home has turned into a legal nightmare.

A South Dakota man who bought the $2.75 million, 4,300 square-foot mansion on Redfish Lane alleges in a lawsuit that he was hoodwinked by Roger and Mary Williams, the home's builders and first owners.

The vast property affronting a nature preserve includes a 900 square-foot guesthouse, a 1,200 square-foot, freestanding, four-car garage and 300 square-foot boathouse. Drywall imported from China was used throughout, says Michael Dalsin's complaint.

Chinese drywall gives off a rotten-egg or sulfuric smell, destroys copper plumbing and wiring and causes respiratory and other illnesses, according to the Florida Department of Health website and numerous media reports.

The use of Chinese drywall boomed in the previous decade due to an American drywall shortage caused by the housing boom and the nine hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004 and 2005.

Dalsin claims the Williamses -- who now live in Lee County -- intentionally hid the fact that the two-story, Tuscan-themed estate was built with the controversial material.

"Within months after the sale certain hot water heater pipes, plumbing and wiring in the home corroded and turned pitch black, and the mal-odor from the gasses emitted by Chinese drywall was so strong it 'hit you in the face' when you entered the home," the lawsuit claims.

Dalsin accuses the Williamses of fraud and wants them to pay to have the problem fixed, according to the lawsuit.

"Rather than abandon the home or pay to re-mediate it themselves, the Williams[es] affirmatively concealed the existence of the Chinese drywall and listed the home for sale for the purpose of passing the home off to an unsuspecting buyer," the lawsuit states.

The Williamses began construction in 2005, finished building the estate in 2007 and put it on the market in 2008 for $3.5 million, and Dalsin bought it in 2011 for $2.75 million, according to court records.

The Williamses deny nearly all points made by Dalsin, mainly that they knew the home contained Chinese drywall, and filed motions denying Dalsin's claims point-by-point.

The lawsuit was filed on Nov. 5. U.S. District Court Judge James Lawrence King set a trial date for Nov. 4 in Key West.

On Tuesday, mediation meetings were scheduled for June 21 in Fort Lauderdale, though both sides have filed paperwork demanding a jury trial.

Attorneys for either side could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Dalsin is being represented by Scott Atherton and Timothy Schulz of West Palm Beach, and the Williamses by Christopher Morin and Ari Sweetbaum of Tampa.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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