Actor Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation has sued the architect of scores of homes the nonprofit sold to Lower 9th Ward residents who lost everything to Hurricane Katrina.
Make it Right itself was recently sued over the homes’ shoddy construction.
The new lawsuit against local architect John C. Williams was filed Tuesday in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.
It says that repairing the water damages caused by Williams' flawed designs could cost Make It Right more than $20 million.
“Unknown to the Make It Right entities, but known to (Williams) at the time, the moisture and water intrusion problems were the result of defective design work” the architect performed, attorney Victor Franckiewicz wrote in the suit.
Williams did not immediately return a message left at his office seeking comment.
The suit comes a little more than a week after homeowners sued Pitt's foundation over homes that have sunk into the ground and that have bowed roofs and side panels that curve away from vertical beams.
Some homeowners have had to move out of their homes only a few years after they moved in, as rain leaks, failed HVAC systems and trapped water and moisture have caused rampant black mold, according to the residents' lawsuit.
Make It Right paid Williams’ firm more than $4 million to produce architectural drawings for more than 100 homes under the program, which was supposed to provide Lower 9th Ward residents with sustainable and affordable new homes to replace those they’d lost when the Industrial Canal floodwall broke, inundating the neighborhood.
But Williams’ work was defective in several ways, according to the suit.
Construction of the homes began in mid-2008 and continued through early 2016. But water intrusion began cropping up in the first homes within a year of their completion.
Specifically, the suit says, the designs exposed laminated veneer lumber to rain and moisture conditions that the material can’t handle, called for flat or low-slope roofs that weren’t up to par, and specified house wrap that eventually allowed water intrusion, among other failures.
Williams’ firm began performing more design work related to the homes’ repair, which Make It Right contends was needed because of his designs. Make It Right then paid to house homeowners in temporary accommodations until the repair work was complete.
But even the repairs were shoddy, prompting more fixes. Williams also said the homes would be deemed “platinum” under the LEEDS, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification program, when in fact they missed that mark.
Make It Right said in the suit that the flaws in Williams’ designs were separate from problems caused by a wood product, TimberSIL, that was used in 2008 and 2009 on 39 properties. The nonprofit sued that product's manufacturer in 2015 for more than $500,000 after wood it provided rapidly deteriorated, though the two parties settled out of court later and Make It Right got a judge to dismiss the suit.
Williams' firm “breached its obligations to the Make It Right entities in bad faith,” Franckiewicz wrote, a move that could cost the foundation millions.
The suit has been assigned to Judge Piper Griffin.
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