Lawsuits fly over Rivermist wall collapse 2 years ago

Pulte-Centex, homeowners take separate legal actions


SAN ANTONIO – Despite the collapse of a large retaining wall on Jan. 24, 2010, at the Rivermist subdivision, Josie Johnson said she had always wanted to live in the Hills of Rivermist, overlooking the affected area.

Johnson, who moved in with her husband and three children on Saturday, said her family loves their new two-story house -- despite reservations by family and friends.

She said they told her, "You're too close to the wall."

But Johnson said she lives a block away above the site and besides, Pulte-Centex has invested millions to rebuild the retaining wall.

However, seeing many of the homes below hers still barricaded, Johnson said, "It's sad. It is very sad."

"Hopefully, they'll fix that soon," she said. "We'll feel better and our family will feel better, too."

Yet Johnson said she was disappointed to hear her homebuilder was suing two companies being blamed for the collapse, yet other homeowners will not see a penny.

"If we'd seen that before we closed, we would have thought twice about buying a Centex home," Johnson said.

However, Valerie Dolenga, a spokeswoman for Pulte-Centex, said if the company wins its lawsuit, any award will only partially offset the $10 million spent on rebuilding the wall, relocating families and buying back houses.

See full Pulte-Centex statement here.

But ten families who did not enter into binding arbitration preventing them from suing the homebuilder, filed a lawsuit last Friday alleging deceptive trade practices.

See full statement by homeowners' attorney here.

Paul Vick, their attorney, said the wall collapse that displaced many families is "a gross breach of responsibility on the part of Pulte-Centex."

The homebuilder's spokeswoman would not comment because the company has not been served the lawsuit.

As for Josie Johnson and her family, she said she believes there was no binding arbitration clause that Dolenga said is normally cited in the sales agreement.

Johnson, who had hoped to keep her legal options open, said she will check but for now, "We're happy so far. The home is beautiful."