China National Building Material (CNBM) yesterday refused to commit to paying US$2.6 million in damages ordered by a United States judge to seven US households for defective plasterboard in their homes. The company's subsidiary, Taishan Gypsum, is one of the largest exporters of Chinese plasterboard to the US and was the defendant in a US trial presided over by Judge Eldon Fallon. Yesterday, when asked if CNBM would pay the damages, vice-president Chang Zhangli replied: 'We're not clear on this matter, as it is a court order (panling), not a judgment (panjue).' The US court document dated April 8 was titled 'Findings of fact and conclusions of law', and read in part: 'The court awarded all seven plaintiff families monetary damages for their losses caused by the defendant, Taishan Gypsum, in the total amount of US$2.6 million.' The trial could set a legal benchmark for possible damages that might be awarded to more than 2,100 US families that have filed lawsuits over defective Chinese plasterboard in their homes. Common complaints include a bad smell and a breakdown of electrical components. Taishan Gypsum, China's largest plasterboard maker, never responded to a US lawsuit filed against it last year and has never appeared in a US court. On November 20 last year, Judge Fallon made a default preliminary judgment against the company. On April 13, President Hu Jintao made a promise through a translator to US Senator Bill Nelson to 'immediately look into' the problem of defective Chinese plasterboard in US homes, while attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, according to US media reports.