Judge Seitz, Maybe You Should Talk to the Florida Supreme Court


In the wake of the eminently reasonable ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that appears to acknowledge that some people just don’t read so good, the WSJ revisits Judge Seitz’ Lochner Era-esq ruling on condo developers saying whatever the hail they want as long as the contract says otherwise:

Last month, the U.S. District Court in Miami dismissed two dozen federal lawsuits in which buyers said they were misled by an advertising brochure promising an “Olympic style” swimming pool at Opera Tower, a high-rise condo building near downtown Miami.

Plaintiffs could not reasonably rely on the drawings or advertisements, Judge Patricia Seitz ruled. The contract clearly stated the pool was L-shaped and 2,530 square feet — smaller than Olympic size, she wrote. The developers claimed that “Olympic style” didn’t refer to the pool’s size but to the fact that it would have lanes.

The decision was a big loss for consumer rights, says Miami Beach attorney Kent Harrison Robbins, who filed the lawsuits against Opera Tower. “It gives developers wide-ranging room to promise whatever they want, as long as they change it in the written contract,” he says. “Honest developers will be outcompeted by dishonest ones.” Mr. Robbins says he plans to appeal the decision to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Real-estate lawyers nationally are closely monitoring the Florida lawsuits, expecting a wave of similar claims across the country as more condominium projects are completed. “The market in Florida is two years ahead of other parts of the U.S., like California or the Sunbelt states, in both the heavy downturn in prices and the lawsuits following it,” says attorney Robert M. Chasnow, a partner with Holland & Knight in Washington.

Hooray, we’re ahead of the curve! Kent better get this right before the 11th, or a certain Magic City Harvard Lawyer will not be muy happy:

“We are going to see a number of cases where buyers are successful, primarily in areas where something substantial was altered in the project and those that were not delivered on time,” says Jared H. Beck of Beck & Lee, a law firm in Miami. “The decisions represent just a tiny sliver of the universe of grounds for buyers’ claims in the ongoing litigation war between buyers and developers.”

“A tiny sliver of the universe” — a nice turn of phrase… if you’re Carl Sagan. There are literally “billions and billions of grounds…”

I kid I kid — good luck and godspeed, gentlemen.