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Hurricane Katrina victims still waiting for payout in Brad Pitt housing charity lawsuit: Report


Brad Pitt poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘Babylon’ in London, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (Photo by Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP)

Victims of Hurricane Katrina who bought faulty homes from a charity led by actor Brad Pitt are reportedly still waiting for money awarded to them in a $20.5 million settlement.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, filings in the lawsuit by New Orleans residents against Pitt’s now-defunct Make It Right Foundation reveal that the nonprofit, which had offered to cover the costs of the settlement, was never actually solvent enough to do so, and had tried to back out of the deal almost immediately.

Make It Right was launched in 2007 with a stated intention to “improve the design and performance of affordable housing.” According to court filings, the foundation’s primary goal was to “provide high-quality, energy-efficient housing to families in need, and to improve the development of communities in which they live.” Its first project was to build homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, which had been hit particularly hard by the flooding resulting from the deadly 2005 hurricane.

A class-action lawsuit filed in 2018 alleged that the 109 homes built by Make It Right were poorly built, with shoddy construction and plumbing leading to mold, bacteria growth, rot, electrical problems, and improper ventilation. The homes — which, according to Pitt at the time, were meant to provide an affordable housing option to people whose lives were hit particularly hard by the devastating 2005 floods — ended up as a seemingly endless string of problems for the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit also alleged that after the homes were inspected by engineers provided by the foundation, homeowners were stonewalled when they asked for the reports, potentially placing them outside of the protections of the Louisiana law that allowed new homeowners to file warranty complaints.

The parties settled in August 2022 for a reported $20.5 million. At the time, lawyers for the plaintiffs said that the settlement would cover the funds needed to repair the homes. With Make It Right apparently having stopped operations, the environmental nonprofit group Global Green stepped in, offering to pay the settlement on behalf of Pitt and the Make It Right defendants.

However, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Global Green did not live up to its pledge to start distributing funds within 10 days, despite signing the judge-approved agreement saying as much. Court documents reportedly show that Global Green didn’t actually have the money at the time to cover the settlement — and that it couldn’t raise the money due to the alleged domestic violence allegations against Pitt by ex-wife Angelina Jolie.

Days after the Make It Right settlement was announced, Jolie was revealed to have been the plaintiff in an action against the FBI accusing the agency of improperly withholding information about an investigation into an alleged domestic violence incident on a private airplane in 2016.

Representatives for Pitt told the Hollywood Reporter that only Global Green is responsible for failing to make the payments, implying that the environmental nonprofit had assured Pitt that the $20.5 million had been secured by donors.

“It was incredibly surprising for the plaintiffs, the defendants and their counsel to learn that the funds Global Green claimed multiple times were secured had not in fact been committed or raised,” the representative said. “It was equally disappointing to discover payment was not made, though the settlement agreement was specifically negotiated to ensure that litigation would continue without prejudice to any parties if the settlement were to fail.”

For the Katrina survivors who bought into Pitt’s promises, the foundation’s failure has only prolonged the ordeal.

“This has been one long nightmare,” Albert Matthews, whose 91-year-old mother paid a deposit on one of the new homes in 2008, told the Hollywood Reporter. Matthews said that the first home intended for his mother had so many problems, the foundation built a second one; it later built a third house when the problems of the second house rendered it unlivable.

“It’s been very stressful for all of us,” Matthews told the Hollywood Reporter. “My mother, she’s never seen the end of the tunnel from Katrina.”

Neither attorneys for the plaintiffs nor representatives from Global Green responded to Law&Crime’s request for comment.

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