MANATEE -- KB Home, the Willowbrook condominium subdivision developer, is suing 41 subcontactors involved in the original construction and demanding a jury trial, court records show.
At least two subcontractors named appear to be out of business, and one went bankrupt. Another was involved only with roofing on the final eight buildings of the 30-unit condominium complex, according to parent company, Archer Exteriors Inc.
"We stand behind our work 100 percent," said Mark Wolverton, president of New Jersey-based Archer Exterior. "(The lawsuit) is very common. That happens in the industry."
As for the subcontractors already out of business, Wolverton said: "For what happened in that market for construction, I think it's a lot about the economy."
Former state Sen. Mike Bennett, now the Manatee County supervisor of elections, has requested the Florida attorney general investigate possible fraudulent practices by KB Home.
The 270-condo complex contains 51 buildings locat
ed just outside the western Lakewood Ranch boundary. It has been plagued with construction deficiencies linked to water intrusion and sinking floors on the second- and third-floor decks and interior floors, along with mold.
The KB Home suit filed April 23 in the 12th Circuit Court in Manatee County seeks damages claiming subcontractors performed substandard work, requiring KB Home "to incur significant damages to investigate, repair and remediate the Project and to resolve claims with the individual unit owners."
"KB Home is actively making repairs in the Willowbrook community and continuing to resolve our homeowners' concerns," said Cara Kane, KB Home spokeswoman in an e-mail. "We stand behind our homes and our warranty, and expect our trade partners, whose work goes into our homes, to do the same. KB Home's lawsuit seeks reimbursement and pursues claims against contractors who may not have fulfilled their obligations in constructing the homes in Willowbrook."
The list of contractors being sued includes builders, air-conditioning companies, roofers, painters and plasterers, flooring companies and landscapers.
KB Home began selling homes in Willowbrook in 2006. Since 2012, more than 70 balconies have been inspected by Manatee County building inspectors by request of residents. More than 30 have been ruled unsafe.
One defendant in the KB Home suit, Regal Decks of Bradenton Inc., has gone bankrupt.
Director Leroy Ruscoe declared bankruptcy, according to the owner of the Palm Harbor company that purchased his franchise.
"I was never there. I was never at that subdivision. I never did any work there," said Michael Sylvester of Regal Decks in Palm Harbor. "Ruscoe bought a franchise, then he left me high and dry and owes me $30,000. I sued him and he declared bankruptcy. I don't even know if he's still in state. I haven't laid eyes on him since he declared bankruptcy."
The suit also claims special damages, "including damage to KB Home's goodwill and business reputation."
Over the past few months, Willowbrook residents have taken their case to Manatee County and state government officials.
A settlement agreement was reached with the Willowbrook Condo Association in October 2012, and repairs began in November 2012. In February, KB Home agreed to pay for relocating Willowbrook homeowners whose properties require repairs, after state Sen. Bill Galvano's office became involved.
"The most important thing is that the work is getting done right. I will continue to monitor it," Galvano said earlier in April. "The ones that had remediation protocol are being executed."
KB Home also agreed to pay for mold assessments for any homeowner and to pay for needed remediation.
The Willowbrook Condo Association, which owns all property outside the drywall, signed an agreement with KB Home to hire a third-party contractor to make repairs. KB Home deposited $2 million in an escrow account not to go below $500,000, company officials have said.
KB Home is now fully funding restoration work.
The Continental Group Management Co. oversees the Willowbrook Homeowners Association and manages the community. The Willowbrook Condo Association Board selected Dueall Construction to take charge of repairs and Karins Engineering Group as their engineering firm for inspections and reports on this project.
Structural Engineering and Inspections Inc. is the engineer for the project, having been hired by Dueall to design the plans and specifications.
Delta Engineering and inspections Inc. is an independent firm approved by Manatee County.
Dee Graham, Herald staff reporter, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.