LWR insurer, others sued over drywall

MANATEE — A trust representing hundreds of homeowners in WCI Communities developments, including one in Manatee County, has sued a Lakewood Ranch insurance company and several others over Chinese drywall.

The federal class-action suit contends two FCCI Insurance Group units and a dozen other insurers are not fulfilling their obligation to cover damages caused by the building product.

The insurers “have either denied coverage, reserved their rights, failed to reply to WCI’s notice letters, or otherwise failed to acknowledge coverage,” which amounts to breach of contract, the suit contends.

The suit, which was filed in Louisiana on Dec. 23 but not announced until Wednesday, seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages. Attorneys for the trust did not immediately return requests for comment.

Among the defendants are FCCI Insurance Co. and FCCI Commercial Insurance Co. A company official did not immediately return a telephone message.

WCI, a homebuilder based in Bonita Springs, created the trust as part of its emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last year. The trust is empowered to seek compensation on behalf of homeowners in WCI developments, including Waterlefe Golf & River Club, for costs associated with the imported wallboard.

More than 700 WCI homeowners in Florida and other states potentially could have the problematic drywall in their homes, the suit said. That’s significantly more than the 200 that the homebuilder initially estimated.

Other defendants in the suit are American International Specialty Lines Insurance Co.; American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Co.; Amerisure Insurance Co.; Amerisure Mutual Insurance Co.; Auto-Owners Insurance Co.; Hermitage Insurance Co.; Illinois Union Insurance Co.; Landmark American Insurance Co.; Lexington Insurance Co.; Mid-Continent Casualty Co.; National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh; Old Republic Insurance Co.; Scottsdale Insurance Co.; and Steadfast Insurance Co.

The insurers sold WCI, its subsidiaries and/or its subcontractors more than $200 million in liability coverage from December 2004 to the present, the suit said. No defendants, including the FCCI units, have responded yet to the suit.

It is believed to be the first class-action insurance coverage suit filed over Chinese drywall.

Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.