LOS ANGELES, Nov. 20, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- In a major win for homeowners, a Los Angeles jury awarded more than $5 million to a group of Long Beach families who say they were forced to live in slumlike conditions in the Friendly Village mobile home park. The families are represented by a legal team led by Brian S. Kabateck of the Los Angeles firm Kabateck LLP.
Today's award of $5,566,156 will be split among 31 families who will receive an average of about $100,000 per person. But that figure is expected to increase as jurors also found the defendants liable for elder abuse and punitive damages. Jurors are expected to begin weighing those additional damages this week.
"This verdict will send a message that landlords can't turn a blind eye to the complaints of their tenants just to drive up profits," Kabateck said. "These residents raised concerns for years about the terrible conditions inside the park and they were completely ignored."
Friendly Village is built on top of a landfill that was once a trash dump site for the city of Long Beach. Residents say the park is unsafe, unsanitary and unsightly. The buckling ground has cracked the foundations and walls of homes, residents say. The air in the park is filled with noxious gas and rainwater doesn't drain, breeding a cesspool of mold and mildew, according to homeowners.
68-year-old retired teacher Milly Bejarano has lived in Friendly Village for 12 years. During that time, she has spent thousands to re-level her property three times. She says the home had constant electrical problems including blown circuit breakers and faulty wiring. And the water that comes out of her faucet has a foul, sewer-like smell, she said.
"All I can say is, 'Hallelujah!" Bejarano exclaimed after the verdict. "This has been a long haul and I'm so happy the jury agreed with us and compensated us for everything we've been through."
"It has been really infuriating that they let this place fall apart," she added. "Our community has suffered for so long because of the owners' greed."
Bejarano says her rent has increased steadily putting a strain on her because she's on a fixed income.
"It's like we are meaningless; they don't care about what happens to people," she said. "It's all about the money."
During the nine-week trial, Kabateck told the jury how the landlords failed to clean up the park or make necessary fixes all while raising rent and collecting millions of dollars in profit.
"The jury found, as we did, that the defendants clearly took advantage of some of the most vulnerable members of the community," Kabateck said. "These are people on a fixed income, the elderly, the disabled and folks on the brink of poverty."
Friendly Village is owned by Michael Scott and Lee Kort. The plaintiffs contended the owners raked in $7.5 million dollars over the past four years from the residents of Friendly Village but spent nothing to make necessary repairs and maintenance. The owners attempted to file bankruptcy during trial.
"I'm very happy my clients will be compensated for what they suffered," Kabateck said. "Now I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the jury's verdict that will make these owners pay for years of taking advantage of these good people."
Kabateck's team represents more than 120 additional families suing Friendly Village. Those cases will go to trial in the coming months.
The plaintiffs' legal team includes Kabateck, Shant Karnikian and Natalie Pang of Kabateck LLP and Gary Fields with FieldsLaw. Kabateck serves as president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, chairman of the board of Loyola Law School and is a past president of Consumer Attorneys of California.
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Contact: Gina Fernandes
E-mail: [email protected]
SOURCE Kabateck LLP