Atlantic Station condo owners lose ‘view' ruling

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday ruled against eight people who said they bought pricey Atlantic Station condos under false promises that they would have spectacular views of the downtown skyline.

The court ruled in favor of the developers of the 26-story Twelve Atlantic Station Hotels and Residence. Condo owners on the south side of the building said they paid substantial premiums for Twelve condos in 2006 after developers advertised great city views and brokers said any development to the south would be low- to mid-rise office buildings.

Instead, Novare Group, which developed the Twelve, soon began construction of the Atlantic, a 46-floor building on the other side of 17th Street. When completed in 2008, the Atlantic blocked the southside views of condo owners in the Twelve.

The condo owners filed suit and won in a ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals allowing their case to proceed.

But in a unanimous ruling, the state Supreme Court reversed that decision. The state high court noted that the condo owners at the Twelve had signed agreements that expressly stated their views could change over time and that oral representations of the sellers could not be relied upon.

“It is well-settled law in Georgia that a party who has ‘the capacity and opportunity to read a written contract cannot afterwards set up fraud in the procurement of his signature to the instrument' based on oral representations that differ from the terms of the contract,” said the opinion, written by Chief Justice Carol Hunstein. "Statements that directly contradict the terms of the agreement or offer future promises simply cannot form the basis of a fraud claim for the purpose of canceling or rescinding a contract."

In fact, the ruling added, the only type of fraud that can relieve someone from his or her obligation to read a written contract and be bound by its terms "is a fraud that prevents the party from reading the contract."

Jim Fletcher, a Dunwoody lawyer who represents the condo owners, said he respects the court's decision. But he said that when Novare was selling its condos at the Twelve it already intended to build the Atlantic across the street.

"The Georgia Supreme Court did not hold that Novare did the right thing," Fletcher said. "Instead, they held that a vague contract disclaimer was just enough for the developer to get away with it. ... There is a difference between doing the right thing and getting off the hook through a legal technicality."

In a statement, Novare said it was pleased with the court's ruling.

"As the court held, real estate purchasers are not entitled to back out of a written agreement based on claimed statements from on-site sales personnel that contradict the written terms and disclosures of the contract," the company said. "We are gratified to be vindicated and to have this litigation finally come to a close after three years."