Condo owners v. Mother Nature

The SE Texas Record Dec. 21, 2008, 1:11am

Ike was the third-most destructive hurricane to ever make landfall in the U.S., an unprecedented weather event for Southeast Texas.

So it figures in today's sue-'em mentality that the unlucky developers of the Diamond Beach condominiums, located on the beach in Galveston where the hurricane hit, should be held responsible for it.

Three Diamond Beach condo owners and their Houston attorney are blaming the developer for Ike's havoc in Galveston County court, claiming a misrepresentation was made about the Galveston seawall in the sales pitch.

They were led to believe the seawall alleviated all risk of a hurricane destroying their property, the complaint seems to suggest.

Built to withstand a 15-foot storm surge, the seawall didn't protect Galveston from the flooding destruction of Ike. But it did lessen the damage, including to developments like Diamond Beach, which remain standing.

According to the developer's Web site, the condos were still under construction when the storm hit but emerged relatively undamaged by Ike. To be sure, it survived a direct hurricane hit.

"We are pleased to report construction is moving full steam ahead at Diamond Beach Condominiums," reads a message posted for condo owners.

Still, plaintiffs Artem and Amy Ponomarev and Karen Gabrielle Lennon say they want out of their purchase contracts.

According to the complaint, the developer's crime was saying the 100 year-old seawall was "built for protection from hurricanes" and "has never been overtopped by a storm surge."

That the seawall was built to protect Galveston from hurricanes is undeniable. And until Ike, a storm surge had never overtopped it. Not that either statement reads like an iron-clad guarantee to us-- Diamond Beach was simply stating two facts.

When it comes to Mother Nature, it's common sense that there can be no guarantees. And if there had to be to get a real estate deal done on Galveston Island, development forever would cease. The area is as susceptible to hurricanes as Buffalo is to blizzards-- weather risks come with the territory, literally.

Those who seek to artificially mitigate nature's due course with tortured legal arguments aren't merely clogging our courts with their self-serving lawsuits, they're detracting from the viability of all Southeast Texas communities in the process.

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