LOS ANGELES Nov. 27, 2018– A Los Angeles jury awarded $34 million today in punitive damages to 30 residents of a Long Beach mobile home park that was once a trash dump site for the city of Long Beach. Today’s verdict is in addition to a $5.5 million judgment the jury leveled last week against the owners of Friendly Village. The jurors found the defendants liable for negligence, unfair business practices, retaliatory eviction and financial elder abuse.
“After five and a half years, our clients are finally receiving some justice for living in a mobile home park that these owners didn’t fix or repair. They didn’t do anything for these people even though they were under order of the state to do the right thing and they wouldn’t do it,” said lead trial attorney Brian Kabateck with Kabateck LLP.
The park is built on land that is constantly shifting, causing sewage backups, electrical problems and structural damage to the mobile homes on the property. The residents sued the property owners for failing to fix their dilapidated community and want to be relocated to safer and better-maintained housing.
68-year-old resident Mildred Bejarano says she plans to use the money to move out. “Whatever I’m awarded I would like to buy a condo if I can afford one and live a decent life in a healthy place. I’m going to get sick if I keep staying there,” said Bejarano. “There are sewer backups which are terrible, no repair of the roads. It’s dangerous. It’s a health hazard, it’s squalor.”
The trial, which began in mid-September, involved a mobile home park managed and operated by companies owned by Michael Scott and Lee Kort. Over the past two months, plaintiffs have testified about how instead of fixing the ongoing problems, the park owners ignored their complaints and continued to hike up the rent. The plaintiffs contended the park owners raked in $7.5 million dollars from the residents of Friendly Village over the past four years, but spent nothing to make necessary repairs and maintenance. This, while the mobile home park owners claimed it was going to try to repair the park eventually, yet declared bankruptcy during trial.
120 more cases are scheduled for trial next year. “Today we believe justice was done,” Kabateck said.
The plaintiffs’ legal team included Brian S. Kabateck, Shant Karnikian and Natalie Pang with the Los Angeles law firm Kabateck LLP and Gary Fields with the Long Beach firm, FieldsLaw