A federal judge in Louisiana on Thursday ruled in favor of a group of homeowners in a suit against a Chinese drywall manufacturer, the first such judicial finding against an offshore maker of drywall that is allged to emit noxious fumes and corrode household wiring and plumbing.

U.S. District Court Judge Eldon Fallon of the Eastern District of Louisiana ordered Taishan Gypsum Company, Ltd., to pay seven Virginia families a total of $2.6 million in damages. Taishan, headquartered in Tai'an, China, did not answer the complaint, particpate in the trial or comment on the case.

"The message Judge Fallon's ruling sends to thousands of other homeowners who have been victimized is that help is finally coming - they will be made whole after the ravages of inferior Chinese drywall and will not have to bear the substantial costs of repairing their homes to get rid of it," said Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss LLP in New York, who was among the attorneys representing the homeowners. .

Seeger said representatives from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission observed the trial, which took place in February. "The CPSC has already adopted and publicly endorsed the position we argued at trial, which is that for their safety homeowners should remove the Chinese drywall and replace any system it has damaged, such as wiring or plumbing or sprinklers," Seeger said.

Seeger Weiss is also representing a Louisiana plaintiff who rebuilt his home with Taishan products after Hurricane Katrina and is now forced to renovate again, what Mr. Seeger called "a double whammy that has hit many Gulf Coast residents trying to rebuild after a barrage of destructive storms." The firm represents a number of other Gulf region homeowners in a trial beginning in June. All of the cases are being heard in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Chinese-made drywall, the judge wrote in his decision, has significantly higher levels of hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and carbon disulfide--all known irritants to humans--than "typical, benign drywall." He concluded, "The Court finds that scientific, economic, and practicality concerns dictate that the proper remediation ... is to remove all drywall in their homes, all items which have suffered corrosion as a result of the Chinese drywall, and all items which will be materially damaged in the process of removal."