A trust set up to benefit WCI Communities homeowners with defective Chinese drywall plans to aggressively go after manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and insurance companies, its attorneys said Tuesday.
The first claim likely will be filed against manufacturer Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. next month, but it won't be the last, the attorneys told more than 125 homeowners who packed a hotel meeting room.
"We are pursuing every possible avenue," said one of the three attorneys advising the trust. "We are pursuing every potential recourse we have, every claim, every dollar on behalf of homeowners."
The Bonita Springs-based homebuilder created the trust, and seeded it with $900,000, as part of its emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The trust is empowered to seek compensation on behalf of homeowners in WCI developments, including Waterlefe Golf & River Club in Manatee County, for costs associated with the imported wallboard.
WCI estimated in August that it built about 200 homes with the suspect drywall, but that number likely is higher now, the trust's attorneys said. The builder's reorganization plan estimated Chinese drywall claims could reach $40 million, but the reorganized company shed any legal liability by creating the trust.
But it's too early to say how much the trust will recoup, and how it will disburse any proceeds to homeowners, the attorneys said.
Despite those unknowns, they urged WCI homeowners -- even those unsure if they have Chinese drywall in their homes -- to register with the trust through its Web site, www.wcitrust.com. Otherwise, homeowners risk the chance of missing out.
"We're asking what WCI never did: Tell us if you think you have it," a trust attorney said of Chinese drywall.
The attorneys also urged those unsure if they have Chinese drywall in their homes to go the Florida Department of Health's Web site, www.doh.state.fl.us, for information on identifying it.
The meeting, the second one held by the trust's attorneys, drew homeowners from Sun City Center to Naples and points in between. The crowd ranged from young couples to retirees clad in T-shirts and jeans to business suits.
In interviews afterward, several said the two-hour meeting was informative but didn't give them all the answers they were seeking.
"As homeowners, we still don't know what to do with our Chinese drywall problem," said Melody Kasl, who lives in the Renaissance area of Sun City Center. "I would like to see our government get a lot more involved. I would like to see some closure."