Tenants Lived with Serious Housing Code Violations

On May 7, 2004, one week prior to the date set for jury trial, Greenstein and McDonald on behalf of 124 tenants at the Park Hill apartment complex in Hayward, California, settled a landmark $3.825 million lawsuit. The lawsuit, originally filed in April 2001, alleged that tenants at the Park Hill Apartment complex were subjected to slum-like living conditions and racial discrimination. This settlement appears to be the largest for this type of tenant case in Bay Area history.

Severe mold infestation in many of the units caused tenants to suffer health problems, including asthma, other breathing problems, upper respiratory problems, skin problems, headaches and sinus difficulties.

Other unsafe and dangerous conditions included gas leaks, raw sewage leaks, rodent and cockroach infestations, defective furnaces, plumbing and rainwater leaks, defective heaters, life-threatening electrical hazards, collapsing walls and ceilings, broken windows, broken door and window locks, and a long list of other deplorable conditions.

“Our law firm aggressively pursued a large financial settlement in this case because of the landlord’s complete and utter disregard for the health and safety of tenants at the Park Hill Apartments,” stated Kenneth Greenstein, of the San Francisco-based law firm Greenstein and McDonald. “This settlement should serve as a warning to other Bay Area landlords that they will pay dearly if they neglect their properties and mistreat their tenants.”

Plaintiffs counsel hired 11 experts to document different aspects of Plaintiffs’ damages and to refute the misinformation being asserted by Defendants and their experts. The strategy of Defendants and their insurance companies was to try to deluge Greenstein and McDonald with so much work and to harass Plaintiffs with 3-4 day depositions to push them to take a low settlement and to lose their desire to take the case to trial. Their strategy utterly failed, and ultimately Defendants were brought to their knees by the overwhelming amount of evidence gathered by Plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs were thrilled with their victory, using the settlement funds to make a significant difference in their lives. In a 2004 press release, Plaintiff Lisa Giles exclaimed, “We plan to make a down-payment on a home with the help of our settlement money. It’s a blessing that something so great could come out of the terrible injustices committed by this slumlord.” More than 10 Plaintiff families intended to use the settlement funds to acquire homes for their families so that they would never be subjected to such landlord abuse again.

The lawsuit also alleged that many women tenants were sexually harassed by a maintenance worker employed by the owner Rodney Busk, and that Mr. Busk did nothing to correct the problem. It further alleged that Busk racially discriminated against some tenants. Mr. Busk also retaliated against Plaintiffs for their complaints regarding the conditions in their units and for their participation in this lawsuit.

*this case study is not a guarantee of success for any other case