The owners of a mobile home park that is sinking due to its location on a former landfill have agreed to pay roughly $50 million to 151 families who sued over the conditions, an attorney representing the residents announced today. He made the announcement after a judge approved the settlement earlier this week.
As part of the agreement, residents in the park on Paramount Boulevard will also share in a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Friendly Village Mobile Park after the owners declared bankruptcy. The sale is expected to generate an additional $7 million to be divided among the residents, even those who were not part of the lawsuit that culminated in a civil trial and jury verdict a year ago.
The settlement was reached after a jury awarded $39.5 million to an initial group of 30 litigants a year ago. The attorney for the plaintiffs, Brian Kabateck, at the time promised to file another lawsuit representing additional families in the 182-unit park.
The two sides had been in negotiations for the past year on an agreement to settle the case and end the lawsuit, which was filed in 2017.
Conditions at the park “went from bad to worse,” Kabateck said at a Wednesday press conference at the park. “These are seniors and working-class people who just want a decent place to live.”
Phil Woog, an attorney for the park’s owners—Friendly Village MHP Associates, Sierra Corporate Management and Kort & Scott Financial Group—declined to comment in a brief phone interview.
The jury found that the park’s owners were negligent in the upkeep of the park, retaliated against residents and engaged in elder abuse, among other findings.
The park was purchased in 1970 and developed by Boise Cascade Development Company, which acknowledged in its purchase agreement that there is a potential for “differential and settlement” of the land.
Any subsequent owners, the agreement said, would be responsible for maintaining vents designed to allow methane gas to safely escape from the ground, and it noted that the property would have to be periodically leveled and resurfaced.
In 2013, the county public health agency found methane levels near trash bins at the park were near “explosive levels.” In 2016, the state later recommended excavating the underground landfill to relieve pressure from the gas.
The plaintiffs contended the park owners raked in millions of dollars over the years from residents but spent nothing to make necessary repairs and keep up with maintenance requests. The mobile home park owners, meanwhile, said they were working to repair the park.
Kabateck said one of the first things the owners did when they took over ownership of Friendly Village was to cancel pest control services. “You can imagine the conditions that followed,” he said.
Several residents on Wednesday said they were elated at the news, saying they looked forward to moving on with their lives.
Sharlynn Galvan said it was a nice place to live when she moved to Friendly Village 25 years ago. When the new owners took over, rents increased and conditions quickly worsened, she and others said.
“All they did was cash our checks,” said Timothy Howard, another resident.
Kabateck, along with attorney Gary Fields, said the settlement will be divided among residents based on their individual conditions. None of the residents will get rich, he said—but he said hopes it will be enough to help them find a new home.
The lawsuit, he said, was about an issue gripping all of Los Angeles County: a lack of affordable housing, along with “people with power who think they can take advantage of the people they think have no power.
“But these residents fought back.”