Judge upholds $36 million jury verdict for residents of mobile home park built on sinking trash dump

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has upheld a roughly $36 million jury verdict in favor 31 families who said were subject to toxic gas leaks and decaying conditions while living in the Friendly Village Mobile Home Park in North Long Beach.

More than 100 families have sued the owners and operators of the park, claiming they lived in squalor at the property that was once a trash dump for the city of Long Beach.

Residents alleged the owners and operators Friendly Village MHP Associates, Sierra Corporate Management and Kort & Scott Financial Group, failed to make repairs or ignored notices about health hazards while raising rents by hundreds of dollars.

A jury in November ruled in favor of the residents and awarded them more than $30 million in damages.

The property is currently listed for sale at $27.4 million.

In a ruling last week, the judge denied a motion for a new trial and said the defendants “took advantage” of the poor and elderly, knowing they had no means to move their mobile homes.

Lead attorney Brian Kabateck, who represents the residents, said the owners are “bad actors” who bought the park knowing it was built on a landfill and then did nothing as it slowly sunk into the trash below.

“The didn’t look at my clients as human beings, they looked at them as living breathing ATM machines,” he said.

A second jury trial for another 12 families who lived in the park is expected to begin in August, he said.

Overall, more than 100 families from the 182-unit park have sued the owners and operators. The defendants will see several rounds of trials as groups of families have filed lawsuits separately, Kabateck added.

The park was purchased in 1970 and developed by Boise Cascade Development Company under an agreement that any subsequent owners would be responsible for maintaining vents designed to allow methane gas to safely escape from the ground.

In 2013, the county public health agency found methane levels near trash bins at the park were near “explosive levels.” The state later recommended excavating the underground landfill to relieve pressure from the gas.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].