Brad Pitt Named in Lawsuit Over Poorly Constructed New Orleans Homes
A faulty wood product and some design missteps have left the actor and his foundation wading through legal trouble.
Actor and philanthropist Brad Pitt has recently found himself in legal trouble over 109 solar powered homes that were designed and built by his ‘Make It Right’ foundation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. According to the Times-Picayune, Pitt requested that he be removed from the suit as he claimed that he had no personal responsibility for the homes and their construction. The request was denied in late October, leaving Pitt and the other directors of the foundation potentially liable for damages.
The Make It Right Foundation’s project in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward began as an attempt to provide environmentally friendly and affordable housing to residents of the neighborhood whose homes had been destroyed by flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The project seemed well-intentioned, building 109 homes designed to withstand future storms and selling them to former residents of the neighborhood with prices set to accommodate their level of income.
But you know what they say about good intentions.
Residents first began reporting signs of poor construction and defects in the homes in 2014. Many of the problems seemed to stem from an innovative wood product used on the homes called TimberSIL. TimberSIL was produced without many of the chemicals that are typically used to prevent wood products from rotting and decaying, making them an attractive option to the environmentally conscious builders and designers at the Make It Right Foundation.
“Instead of treating the wood with toxic chemicals, it’s actually infused with sand, or silica, such that it takes on the properties of treated lumber,” Make It Right’s executive director Tom Darden said in a 2010 interview. “But at the end of its life cycle, which is estimated to be about 300 years, it can be mulched and composted, believe it or not.”
Unfortunately, the TimberSIL used in the Make It Right homes in New Orleans lasted much, much less than 300 years. The innovative product was no match for the high levels of moisture in New Orleans. By the end of 2014, Make It Right had replaced wood structures in 30 homes. In March of 2015, Make It Right sued TimberSIL for almost $500,000. According to NBC News, both parties settled in 2017.
The foundation’s troubles did not end there. Make It Right had to tear down one of their homes completely in June of 2018. Later that year Jennifer Decuir and Lloyd Francis, owners of Make It Right homes, filed a lawsuit against the foundation based on claims for breach of contract, unfair trade practices, fraud, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Decuir and Francis’ attorney Ron Austin told Architectural Digest that “Make It Right was very good at pacifying people and putting them off, and pacifying people and putting them off. They might come back and fix one thing, but not everything. I think they were able to get away with it because of who they were, because the residents were very grateful with Make It Right stepping in and showing interest in their community.”