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Brad Pitt responsible for charity's defective New Orleans homes, residents say

Image: Brad Pitt walks in the Lower 9th Ward where homes are being built fo
Brad Pitt walks in the Lower Ninth Ward, where homes were being built for the Make It Right Foundation in New Orleans on Dec. 1, 2008. -
Alex Brandon AP file
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Attorneys for two New Orleans residents who sued Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation for allegedly selling them poorly constructed homes are asking a federal judge to deny Pitt's request to be removed from the suit.

The lawsuit, filed in September and now being heard in the Eastern Louisiana U.S. District Court, alleges that Make It Right, a charity formed by Pitt in 2007 to help Lower Ninth Ward residents return after Hurricane Katrina, built "defective" homes that leaked, were filled with mold and fell apart. In their suit, the two residents, Lloyd Francis and Jennifer Decuir, accuse Pitt and Make It Right of unfair trade practices, breach of contract and fraud.

Pitt's attorneys have denied the allegations, though they admit that there are problems with the homes, which they blame on the project's architect in a separate lawsuit and which they said will take $20 million to fix.

In November, Pitt's attorneys filed a motion requesting the residents' claims against Pitt be dismissed and his name removed from the lawsuit. The attorneys argued that even if the claims were credible, Pitt wasn't to blame for the construction and should not "simply be lumped together with other defendants and held liable for alleged conduct in which he is not even alleged to have participated."

Neither Pitt's attorneys nor Make It Right returned requests for comment. Attorneys for the Lower Ninth Ward homeowners declined to comment.

In Tuesday's motion, lawyers for the Lower Ninth Ward homeowners argued that as the founder of the board, and a member, Pitt bears responsibility for Make It Right's directors and employees on the ground who oversaw construction, made inadequate repairs and kept homeowners in the dark regarding the deficiencies in their homes. The motion claims Pitt knew of homeowners' complaints as early as 2009.

A water-damaged house built by the Make It Right Foundation on Reynes Street in New Orleans.
A water-damaged house built by the Make It Right Foundation on Reynes Street in New Orleans.William Widmer

The motion often refers to Pitt's own words, from news coverage about the project before the problems were publicly known. It states that the actor "claimed personal credit for the rebuilding effort" and "benefitted from the significant free publicity he received."

"Mr. Pitt gladly accepted responsibility for his personal participation when the publicity was favorable," the filing says.

A rotted porch on a home built by the Make It Right Foundation on Tennessee Street in New Orleans.
A rotted porch on a home built by the Make It Right Foundation on Tennessee Street in New Orleans. William Widmer

The homeowners' attorneys argue that the discovery phase of the lawsuit is necessary to ascertain "who knew what; who ordered what actions; who ordered what silence; whether monies were diverted from one entity to another; when the entities became insolvent," among other questions.

"The Make It Right Foundation was known in the news as Brad Pitts' [sic] Foundation," the filing states. "Mr. Pitt received all of the accolades when it appeared the people of the Lower Ninth Ward were being helped by him. But, when it surfaced that these homeowners, who are burdened with 30 year mortgages on homes that may not last another five years, Defendant seeks to be dismissed from legal scrutiny by conveniently ignoring his personal participation and Plaintiffs' allegations of fraud."