Friedman & Chapman specializes in the practice of habitability law. We have successfully represented thousands of tenants throughout California in actions against their landlords for substandard living conditions in many multi-unit tenant cases. Since 2012, Friedman & Chapman has achieved verdicts and settlements in lawsuits totaling over $100 million.
Chavez v. Sherland Inc. AHK international LTD, et.al. May 2023
This case was tried to verdict in Department 36 of the Contra Costa Superior Court in front of the Honorable Clare Maier. Despite being a courthouse known for conservative juries, this case resulted in one of the largest habitability verdicts on behalf of minors in California history. Defendants were represented by counsel from one of the nation’s largest law firms, Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith.
Plaintiffs alleged uninhabitable conditions that existed at an apartment building located at 1760 Diane Court in Concord, California. The rundown multi-unit apartment complex was constructed in 1961. Friedman & Chapman originally represented 32 Plaintiffs who resided in six of the 27 units of the building. Defendant Sherland Inc. purchased the building in September of 2005 and owned the building until it was sold in December of 2015. Defendant Sekk Investments Diane, LLC purchased the property and owned it during the pendency of the lawsuit. Defendant Sekk and Plaintiff’s settled prior to trial, leaving Sherland Inc. and their management company AHK International LTD as the sole remaining Defendants.
Just prior to trial, Defendant Sherland Inc. and AHK International LTD settled with 26 of the 32 Plaintiffs. Defendants did not settle with six Plaintiffs who were minors from 2005 through 2015, but had since reached the age of majority. On the eve of trial, Defendants offered $24,000 dollars or $4,000 dollars for each remaining Plaintiff.
During trial, each Plaintiff testified to conditions that they endured because of Defendants’ negligence in maintaining their residence. Plaintiffs’ presented compelling evidence of emotional distress caused by prolonged and repeated bedbug, cockroach and rodent infestations. Evidence included testimony by the mother of one Plaintiff who could not qualify as a witness due to severe autism. The Plaintiff’s mother testified that on one particular evening she was awakened by the screaming of her son. As she investigated her son’s condition, she noted a live cockroach had lodged itself in her son’s ear and could not be removed until medical intervention in the Emergency Room of the local hospital. Another Plaintiff testified that he recalled reflecting on his way home from school how much he did not want to return home because he knew the bedbugs would be waiting for him.
Testimony by the Defendants’ onsite manager confirmed they received at least three reports of cockroach infestations per month for every year of Defendants’ ownership. In 2015, insect infestations became so bad that the owners were forced to tent the building.
Experts in entomology and property management testified that Defendants’ actions fell below the standard of care for pest control and property management.
The powerful and compelling evidence was reflected with the jury awarding a total verdict of $528,000. This far exceeded the $24,000 offered by Defendants on the eve of trial.
The case was tried by Lead Trial Counsel Drew Haughton and Senior Associate Paul Christensen.