SOURCE: Krupnick Campbell Malone Buser Slama Hancock Liberman & McKee

January 07, 2010 13:36 ET

Florida Governor Should Declare a State of Emergency and Activate Emergency Services for Florida Defective Drywall Victims, According to Attorney Mike Ryan

FEMA Says It Is Waiting for States to Ask for Assistance and, in the Meantime, Homeowners and Communities Are Caught in the Middle

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL--(Marketwire - January 7, 2010) - Since the discovery that toxic Chinese drywall has devastated homes in Florida, attorney Mike Ryan has worked to help find relief and solutions for homeowners across Broward County and the State. Ryan, a partner at Krupnick Campbell Malone Buser Slama Hancock Liberman & McKee, recently traveled to Washington, D.C. with homeowners and builders to press elected and agency officials to find immediate solutions to save communities.

On November 25, 2009, FEMA sent a letter to U.S. Senators regarding the defective drywall situation and what role FEMA could play in this catastrophe. Ryan stated, "FEMA is essentially blaming the State for failing to start the process for securing emergency help for our homeowners and businesses."

Quoting from the letter, "FEMA may recommend an emergency declaration to the President when assistance is needed to supplement State and local efforts to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of catastrophe... In order for FEMA to consider making a recommendation to the President for a declaration, the State must activate its emergency plan and explain in some detail how the incident is of such severity and magnitude that it has overwhelmed State and local capabilities. However, because States under their laws... have authority to respond to this situation, it would be unusual for FEMA to recommend a declaration for this type of situation... "

"This is the most outrageous part of the disaster. It has been over a year since the Florida Department of Health learned of this problem. People have patiently lived with this disaster through the spring, summer, fall and now are into winter, believing help was on the way. While the various agencies and officials kick responsibility back and forth, homeowners, who did nothing wrong, are caught in the middle," said Ryan.

Nine months ago, Congressman Wexler asked Governor Crist to declare a state of emergency. Ryan explained what happened then, "Governor Crist refused to declare a state of emergency, saying studies needed to be performed. Well, now the studies have been performed by the CPSC and the studies prove beyond question the drywall is causing the corrosion, odors and problems in the homes."

"Under Florida law," continued Ryan, "the Governor has the power and authority to declare an emergency through an Executive Order. In fact, Florida Statute Section 252.34 defines emergency as any occurrence, or threat thereof, whether natural, technological, or manmade, in war or in peace, which results or may result in substantial injury or harm to the population or substantial damage to or loss of property."

Ryan gave his opinion, "There is no question this statutory language gives the Governor the power to declare an emergency in this situation and he is obligated to use this power for the benefit of Florida residents and businesses so we can get FEMA and other governmental assistance. The damage to the home is unquestionably 'substantial' requiring at a minimum all of the defective drywall to be gutted from the home. In fact, some builders are tearing the homes down to the block and studs. And, we know it is caused by the defective drywall. What more does the Governor need? If he says he needs prove scientific evidence of health side effects, he certainly did not need that level of evidence to help save produce growers when it became cold in Florida."

Explaining the scope of the disaster, Ryan said, "People are losing their homes because they are unable to rent or sell the home, and many are unable to live in the homes. The blight of abandonment is infecting blocks, subdivisions, buildings and communities. Businesses in the building industry are declaring bankruptcy. Insurance companies are refusing to provide coverage and some have even dropped homeowners' policies once the insurance companies learned the homes had defective drywall. In the meantime, homeowners are paying mortgages, taxes and upkeep on the homes. Homeowners simply put have no where else to go."

HUD recently said Community Development Block Grant funds may be available. However, the HUD system requires municipalities to request the funds and they are slow in coming or unavailable based upon income restrictions or have already been used up by the municipalities.

"The shelf life on patience is running out. The financial futures of families and business are on the line and put at risk. Homeowners are now asking 'Where are our elected officials to help in this catastrophe?' These homeowners are not looking for a handout. They understand there are foreign manufacturers who are responsible and the law may provide recovery from the building and insurance industry. But, while the litigation runs its course, families, businesses, and communities are being impacted terribly," said Ryan.

On January 6, 2009, the City of Parkland City Commission passed a resolution calling on the Governor to declare a state of emergency and pursue all available resources. "We applaud the consistent leadership of Mayor Michael Udine and all the City Commissioners of Parkland during this disaster. They have been on the forefront of trying to find assistance for homeowners and the community." Ryan added, "We have also had great support from elected representatives, including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, State Senator Jeremy Ring, State Senator Ted Deutch, State Senator Nan Rich, State Representative Ari Porth and others. While we agree with State Senator Dave Aronberg that the government response has been slow and a taskforce will be helpful going forward as we address this problem globally, what homeowners need now is financial assistance and a truly integrated governmental emergency response."

"Since March of 2009, we have been describing this catastrophe as a 'silent hurricane,' with a path of destruction throughout Florida and the country," said Ryan. "In some sense it is worse than a hurricane because not only are insurance companies refusing to cover the damage and some of these companies are abandoning Florida families, but our own government is failing in its duty to help citizens who did nothing wrong.

"Now, if the Governor does not declare a state of emergency and activate all available emergency resources for our homeowners, builders, and community, or other elected officials do not press the Governor and the State agencies to muster every available resource, either they don't get it or don't care. This disaster is an equal opportunity catastrophe, affecting the wealthy and those on fixed incomes, those of all races, religions, and political affiliations, and both homeowners and businesses throughout the State of Florida. Simply put, the highest calling of government is to help those who have done nothing wrong and have tried every other means to fix a problem. The time to help is now, not another year from now after yet another study or taskforce report."

Contact Information

    Michelle Friedman
    (954) 370-8999
    (561) 706-4585