• Protip: Profile posts are public! Use Conversations to message other members privately. Everyone can see the content of a profile post.

Advice sought for civil lawsuit

Joined
24 January 2006
Messages
1,349
Location
Los Angeles
Posting this for a buddy of mine cause I know a few members will probably have some excellent advice.

My friend owns an apartment in CA that is rented out to a family with kids, and they have been renting there since before my friend bought the place. Recently one of the renters' kids (9 years) was playing around and rolled a bowling ball down a grade, right before a neighbor walked out from around the corner, and he was struck by the bowling ball, which badly broke his foot, requiring surgery and time off from work. The neighbors are suing for *STUPID* money, and they have listed my buddy (owner) as the primary defendant, with the tenants secondary.

Apparently the tenants and the neighbor have a history of "bad blood" between them. The suit claims that the HOA has sent complaints to the owner regarding his tenants in the past (on behalf of the neighbor), and that his lack of action constitutes negligence.

The owner has no insurance for anything like this, so he's out of pocket to defend himself. One ballpark quote he got from an attorney to defend him was a sizeable portion of his annual salary. The owner is aware of mediation and arbitration, but even a small percentage of the damages sought would ruin him, so these options seem bleak.

1. Does anyone have a feel for how strong the case against him is?
2. Does anyone have any good leads for cheap/free legal resources?
3. Can anyone give a referral to a good lawyer in SoCal with the right background to defend against this kind of suit?
4. What evidence would the owner need to present to maximize his odds of success?

This is a good guy who doesn't deserve something like this. Any help will be greatly appreciated. TIA!
 
Well, first things first, incorporating a front company to own and handle the rental property is always a good idea along with insurance. Then in a situation like this, the worst that could happen is the corporation would go bankrupt and the property would be liquidated but personal assets would remain untouched.

The suit claims HOA sent complaints, did they? That would seem to be the focal point in proving your friends negligence. If they cannot produce proof (certified return receipt etc.), I would say that he has a chance of not losing his ass. On the other hand, if they can produce proof, he's screwed and somewhat rightfully so.
 
Frivolous lawsuits are the beginning of the downfall of this country. Ugh.
 
Yes they are.
If the plaintiff cannot produce proof of these notices your friend needs an attorney to draft a motion for summary judgement. It's not something I would suggest one do themselves with no legal background so an attorney is very prudent at this point.
 
This is a perfect example why we need to institute a 'loser pays' system akin to some European nations.

I seriously doubt HOA warning letters were pertinent to rolling bowling balls at the neighbors' feet. Those types of actions are law enforcement issues... call the cops.

Unless it can be proven (via registered mail/courier receipt/etc) that the landlord was alerted/warned by the HOA about the 9 year old for previously committed similar acts with bowling balls that forced his parent/s into a breach of contract on the lease... I highly doubt the landlord can be touched.

If this 9 year old killed a neighbor by removing the lug nuts of his car's wheels, are they going to charge the landlord for manslaughter? No way. The kid's parents are the ones that will have to answer for the actions... if need be.
 
This is a perfect example why we need to institute a 'loser pays' system akin to some European nations.

I seriously doubt HOA warning letters were pertinent to rolling bowling balls at the neighbors' feet. Those types of actions are law enforcement issues... call the cops.

Unless it can be proven (via registered mail/courier receipt/etc) that the landlord was alerted/warned by the HOA about the 9 year old for previously committed similar acts with bowling balls that forced his parent/s into a breach of contract on the lease... I highly doubt the landlord can be touched.

If this 9 year old killed a neighbor by removing the lug nuts of his car's wheels, are they going to charge the landlord for manslaughter? No way. The kid's parents are the ones that will have to answer for the actions... if need be.

Europe is lightyears ahead of us in much of their doings.

Like I said, Motion for Summary Judgement and a judge with 3+ brain cells should clean things up.
 
The owner has no insurance for anything like this, so he's out of pocket to defend himself.

interesting thread. ianal, but the neighbor / tenant / hoa correspondence / resulting action may have your guy by the short hairs. in today's litigious society, i can't imagine owning anything without having insurance to cover me from stuff like this.
 
interesting thread. ianal, but the neighbor / tenant / hoa correspondence / resulting action may have your guy by the short hairs. in today's litigious society, i can't imagine owning anything without having insurance to cover me from stuff like this.

+1 and I feel much better with my $1M umbrella coverage too. Highly recommended, especially if you rent property.
 
Stupid question..........is there a mortgage on the property?
 
Stupid question..........is there a mortgage on the property?

I have a multimillion dollar umbrella insurance policy as well, but I have a question. Let's assume my net worth is one million and I also have an umbrella policy for one million. Is my exposure one million or two million?

Don't mean to hijack this thread but even my insurance company couldn't answer my question and I am too cheap to call my estate attorney.
 
My understanding is you would still have an exposure of 2M. An umbrella policy doesn't protect you any more than say auto insurance. If the amount adjudicated against you exceeds your coverage limits you will be expected to cover the excess. The only benefit of an umbrella policy is the versatile way in which it can be applied to pretty much an aspect of your insurance from health to auto to homeowners.


I didn't think about it earlier but if the property in question has a mortgage then there is insurance that should provide for a defense. Even if there is not, if your friend has a homeowner's policy on his primary residence, there is a slight chance that may cover a defense also.
 
I have a multimillion dollar umbrella insurance policy as well, but I have a question. Let's assume my net worth is one million and I also have an umbrella policy for one million. Is my exposure one million or two million?

Don't mean to hijack this thread but even my insurance company couldn't answer my question and I am too cheap to call my estate attorney.

It would be 2 million because the tenant will sue for all the insurance and then the assets.

I doubt the "king pin" in this suit will get anything from the bowling alley owner. The tenant is responsible for his own actions. If the owner gave the kid the bowling ball and told the kid to do it then that's a different matter.

It's not the owners responsibility to parent the children of his tenants.

BTW if the owner has not received any payments for rent from the parents of the bowling ball kid there is a law about tenants that come with a building you purchase. That person is a licensee to the property and not a tenant as long as the new owner has not been paid any rent from the licensee.
 
Yes they are.
If the plaintiff cannot produce proof of these notices your friend needs an attorney to draft a motion for summary judgement. It's not something I would suggest one do themselves with no legal background so an attorney is very prudent at this point.

This is a perfect example why we need to institute a 'loser pays' system akin to some European nations.

I seriously doubt HOA warning letters were pertinent to rolling bowling balls at the neighbors' feet. Those types of actions are law enforcement issues... call the cops.

Unless it can be proven (via registered mail/courier receipt/etc) that the landlord was alerted/warned by the HOA about the 9 year old for previously committed similar acts with bowling balls that forced his parent/s into a breach of contract on the lease... I highly doubt the landlord can be touched.

If this 9 year old killed a neighbor by removing the lug nuts of his car's wheels, are they going to charge the landlord for manslaughter? No way. The kid's parents are the ones that will have to answer for the actions... if need be.

Stupid question..........is there a mortgage on the property?

My understanding is the HOA sent the letters, so it may be easy to get an affidavit signed by a HOA employee that states warnings were sent, and copies of the letters. However, the owner did not receive any letters, but this is probably due to the HOA having an outdated mailing address for the owner

There is a mortgage on the property, but I believe the owner already inquired with his insurance about coverage. It's a private residence, so the insurance is probably basic.

Thanks for all the input so far guys, keep them coming. I'll pass on the reco for motion for summary judgement, but the suit is tying the owner and the tenant together as defendants, so this seems unlikely. The tenants have no assets so of course the owner is being targeted.
 
Well, first things first, incorporating a front company to own and handle the rental property is always a good idea along with insurance. Then in a situation like this, the worst that could happen is the corporation would go bankrupt and the property would be liquidated but personal assets would remain untouched..

I'd go further - assuming you have a limited company owning the property, you then have a first (bank) mortgage, you register a second charge to yourself for more than the balance of the property is worth.

You put this together in a package - you KNOW the Plaintiff's lawyer is working on contingency - you send him the package, case closed - no money here for the lawyer!:wink:

Frivolous lawsuits are the beginning of the downfall of this country. Ugh.

Beginning? The beginning happened LONG ago!

Europe is lightyears ahead of us in much of their doings.

All countries are - the USA is the only place where people think getting injured and winning the lottery are the same thing!:frown:

I have a multimillion dollar umbrella insurance policy as well, but I have a question. Let's assume my net worth is one million and I also have an umbrella policy for one million. Is my exposure one million or two million?

If you do not have a limited liability company then your liability is UNLIMITED - they can get a judgement against you and garnish your future income!!! Never mind the $1M in assets you have today. Thats why people use companies, they can "die" and liability (except in the case of fraud) dies with them.

Thanks for all the input so far guys, keep them coming. I'll pass on the reco for motion for summary judgement, but the suit is tying the owner and the tenant together as defendants, so this seems unlikely. The tenants have no assets so of course the owner is being targeted.

They are not "tied together" they are co-defendants - one can slip away leaving the other holding the empty bag!
 
If there is a mortgage on the property, he has insurance. It may not be the most comprehensive but they will provide a defense when push comes to shove. That is what they are paid for.

I conferred a little with an friend who has made quite a bit of money representing the plaintiff side of similar situations. His basic assesment was that your friend is technically liable as the owner of the property despite having no control over the situation. It boils down to the property owner is ALWAYS liable on some level for any action on their property. It's pretty sad, but coming from this individual I would say it is worth giving credence.

Incorporating in some manner is generally the best idea anytime you run a 'small business' of sorts and this may end up being a very expensive lesson learned for you friend.
 
What were the warnings about of the HOA letters? My HOA will send letters if you have oil drips on the driveway. So it will matter what the complaints were about. In the end the judge should come to the conclusion that the parents of the child are at fault here for not monitoring their child.

As far as good lawyers, my sister only uses DLA Piper for her company. They have an office in L.A.

http://www.dlapiper.com/home.aspx Not sure if they can help you, but you might want to check them out as she swares by them.
 
What were the warnings about of the HOA letters? My HOA will send letters if you have oil drips on the driveway.

Thank god!! I'm not the only one. Mine will send complaints if I ride home too late, leave the garage door open or change my oil in the drive way.

Again, the person in question is technically liable and there is legal precedence to support his liability. It is very rare that a judge will go against legal precedence and when they do it's because there is some extreme extenuating factor. Your friend needs a lawyer.
 
Back
Top