Tiki Island couple accuses broker of deceptive trade

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jul. 7, 2009, 9:34am

GALVESTON � Alleging an agent lied to them about being able to build a ground floor bathroom in their Tiki Island home, a Galveston County couple seeks $300,000 in damages from Coldwell Banker United, Realtors.

L.J. and Gitka Vincik purchased a house from broker Carol Kappler for $585,000 in the summer of 2005 and claim Kappler told them the house's bathroom and wet bar were not subject to Tiki Island's property regulations. However, three years later the couple learned that Kappler's statements contradicted the village ordinance.

The Vinciks filed a deceptive trade suit on July 1 in Galveston County District Court.

According to court papers, Kappler, who is also a defendant in the case, told the plaintiffs that the property was one of the few that Tiki Island would allow the construction of downstairs bathrooms.

The suit adds that Gitka Vincik, a recovering cancer patient, wanted to use the 700-square-foot ground level as an art studio.

"The Vinciks understood Ms. Kappler's representations to mean that the property had been 'grandfathered' from Tiki Village's zoning requirements," they say.

Hurricane Ike inflicted a significant amount of damage to the home's first floor during the early morning hours of Sept. 13, 2008.

The plaintiffs wanted to rebuild the area as it was previously, but village officials told them they could not.

"After Hurricane Ike, the Vinciks were told by Tiki officials they could not rebuild the ground level with plumbing," the suit says. "It was at this time the Vinciks learned that what Ms. Kappler told them was not true.

"Ms. Kappler was employed by and working for CBU when she made her representations."

Consequently, the Vinciks demand restitution in the amount of $300,000 from the defendants, who are ultimately faulted for fraud, negligence, and breach of contract.

"There are two damage models the Vinciks can use," the suit says. "One is the difference in value of what they believed they were purchasing and what they actually purchased. The other is the cost to build a 700-square-foot space with plumbing above ground level."

Houston attorney John C. Cunningham is representing the plaintiffs, and the case has been assigned to Galveston County 212th District Court Judge Susan Criss.

Case No. 09CV1100

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