Kirkland & Ellis, along with the Inner City Law Center, reached a settlement yesterday on behalf of more than 100 low-income tenants who had filed a negligence lawsuit against their landlord, Bracha Investments LLC and Franco Haiem. The plaintiffs will receive $2.18 million, in addition to other monies, as part of the settlement that was reached four days into a jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Tenants of the south Los Angeles building, most of whom are of Mexican descent (including many elderly individuals and children) endured dangerous living conditions, fire safety violations, mold and sewage problems, physical and mental injuries, faulty sanitation, electric connections and wiring, and serious mouse and cockroach infestation. The cockroach infestation was so bad that the pests crawled over tenants’ bodies and into their ears, and spawned in refrigerators, electronics, children's toys and beds.
The building had been cited by the Health Department and LA Housing and Community Investment Department for failures to keep the building in compliance with basic health and safety laws and fire codes going back to at least 2009. When the tenants complained to Bracha and Mr. Haiem, their grievances were ignored. Deplorable living conditions persisted in the building from 2009-2012, with many tenants unable to vacate due to the high cost of moving.
“Horrible doesn’t begin to describe the living conditions that these tenants endured for years,” said Sharre Lotfollahi, a partner in Kirkland’s Los Angeles office who led the team representing the tenants pro bono. “We are thankful that justice has been served and hopeful the compensation our clients will receive will help change their lives for the better.”
The tenants claimed negligence, breach of the implied warranty of habitability, unlawful collection of rent, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Lotfollahi was joined by Kirkland attorneys Christopher Lawless, Colin Michel, Robert Taylor, Benjamin Yaghoubian, Michael Eshaghian, Patrick Park and Graham Cole, along with attorneys from the Inner City Law Center, in representing the tenants.
“It is incredibly unfair that this landlord took advantage of these tenants, most of whom had no recourse but to live in unacceptable and dangerous surroundings while he neglected even the most basic amenities,” said Sonia Pflaster of the Inner City Law Center. “We appreciate the effort that the Kirkland team put into this case to ensure that our clients would receive appropriate compensation for the hardships they endured. The settlement will have a meaningful impact on each of their lives.”
Kirkland & Ellis LLP (www.kirkland.com) is a 1,600-attorney law firm representing global clients in complex litigation and dispute resolution/arbitration, corporate, restructuring and tax, and intellectual property and technology matters. The Firm has offices in Los Angeles, Beijing, Chicago, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai and Washington, D.C. Kirkland is committed to providing legal services without charge to those who cannot afford counsel, with the goals of improving lives, bettering communities and deepening our attorneys’ professional experience.