Two S.F. tenants have received a jury verdict which exceeds all known judgments or settlements nationally for a single unit tenant case and is one of the largest tenant verdicts ever.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA —Following the most significant jury verdict in a tenant case in well over a decade in California, husband and wife plaintiffs Dale Duncan and Marta Mendoza received judgment last week for $3,528,000 after a four-week trial in their case against defendants Anne Kihagi, her sister Christina Mwangi and their company Zoriall LLC. The jury awarded a total of $1,176,000 in damages on October 5, 2017 for the wrongful eviction of plaintiffs in 2015 from their home at 71 Hill Street in the Mission District of San Francisco, and for harassment which occurred prior to their eviction. Last week, Superior Court Judge Andrew Y. S. Cheng entered the judgment, tripling the award per law based on the jury’s factual findings. Plaintiffs expect a substantial additional judicial award for their attorney fees and costs of suit as well, subject to further court proceedings. The case is Dale Duncan, et al., v. Anne Kihagi, et al. S.F. Case No. CGC 15-545655.
The claims proven include that the Defendants followed a pattern of harassment against the tenants and of decreasing and interrupting housing services at the Hill Street property, after they purchased it in 2014. Mr. Duncan, a woodcraftsman and cabinet maker, moved into the property in early 1994 and lived there for 21 years, and Marta Mendoza joined when they were married about 10 years ago. They have a 9 year old daughter. The family ultimately moved out of their home at the property after Christina Mwangi filed a fraudulent “owner move-in” eviction against them. The jury verdict included specific findings that the Defendants’ misconduct was carried out in knowing violation of or in reckless disregard of San Francisco rent-control law.
It has been alleged by Plaintiffs and the S.F. City Attorney’s Office that Anne Kihagi is among the most notorious landlords currently operating in this jurisdiction and that she has orchestrated harassment campaigns against large numbers of tenants in San Francisco and has successfully displaced rent-controlled tenants from many properties in which she has taken a major financial stake. At the Hill Street property, she had Ms. Mwangi purport to take a partial-ownership interest in the property shortly before initiating her eviction against the Duncan family, only to return and dispossess herself of the ownership once the Duncan family had moved out. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have three civil actions brought by other plaintiffs still pending against these same Defendants, consolidated with this case and in a separate related case.