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NEW ORLEANS (CBSMiami/AP) —  China’s Ministry of Justice sent back a lawsuit saying thousands of U.S. homeowners cannot sue the Cabinet-level agency for damage to their home from defective drywall made in China.

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The ministry says it won’t serve the legal papers because the agency is immune to such lawsuits and the legal service would infringe on China’s sovereignty.

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon has ruled that Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd. must pay for damages from the drywall it made. He’s considering damages for as many as 4,000 homeowners in six states including Florida.

The brief letter from Beijing became part of the court record this week, about 21 months after lawyers for the homeowners sued the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, which oversees 117 state-owned companies. It was dated April 8th.

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An attorney for the homeowners did not immediately respond to a request for comment emailed Thursday.

Fallon ruled in 2010 that Taishan’s drywall emitted sulfur gas that damaged the homes of seven “bellwether” plaintiffs from Virginia, making occupants ill, corroding copper, silver and other metals, damaging appliances and electronics, and stinking up the houses so they were “hard if not impossible to live in.”

All the drywall, wiring, copper pipes, insulation, and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units in each house, most electronics and appliances, and all hardwood or vinyl flooring had to be replaced, he ruled.

The other states involved in the lawsuit include Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

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