Attorneys Big Winners in Lowe's Drywall Settlement

A floral display at Lowe's store in Sunnyvale, Calif., Thursday, May 17, 2007. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Lowe's Companies Inc. has agreed to a $6.5 million settlement over claims it sold defective drywall, but according to a ProPublica report, lawyers--not individual victims---may receive the biggest payouts.

The settlement will offer small payouts to victims while the attorneys who negotiated the deal will receive a separate payment of $2.1 million.

Victims will primarily be compensated in Lowe's gift cards in amounts of $50, $250 or $2,000, and victims who can prove they have suffered more than $2,000 in damages may also receive up to $2,500 in cash, ProPublica reports. $4,500 in cash and gift cards is the maximum a victim will receive in the settlement, regardless of how much contaminated drywall he or she purchased.

The settlement payouts may be of little help to victims dealing with defective drywall: in April the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended homeowners living with defective drywall remove the drywall and electrical wiring, a job that can cost $100,000 or more.

As CBS News reported last March, thousands of homeowners, mostly in Florida, Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, have reported problems with the drywall, which was imported in large quantities during the housing boom and after a string of Gulf Coast hurricanes. The damage being blamed on defective drywall is ugly: corroded copper coil, electrical wires eaten away and a noxious odor fouling the air. Health complaints range from itchy eyes to headaches and bloody noses to breathing problems.

Drywall imported from China was initially thought to be the source of the problem, but a CBS News investigation last year found defective drywall may include products made in the United States.