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Toschi, et al. v. County of San Mateo, et al. — $850,000 global settlement

This was a civil rights case in which we obtained a settlement of $850,000 on behalf of Plaintiffs who are residents of the Emerald Hills neighborhood of Redwood City.

The case settled during two separate settlement conferences before Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero. At the first conference, the parties agreed on the settlement amount. Defendant County of San Mateo agreed to contribute $650,000 and Defendants Don and Rhonda Dallimonti agreed to contribute $200,000 towards the settlement. At the second conference, the County and the plaintiffs reached an agreement on the injunctive relief; that is, the installation of a drainage system and privacy fence.

This case began as a dispute between neighbors — plaintiffs Michael Toschi and Tracy Toschi (the “Toschis”) and defendants Don and Rhonda Dallimonti (the “Dallimontis”). Don Dallimonti is a Sergeant in the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department. What began as an attempt by the Toschis to mitigate damage to their property (caused, at least in part, by the Dallimontis driving their vehicles onto the Toschis’ property when entering and exiting the driveway of their residence) escalated into a civil rights dispute. There exists a “paper trail” between the Toschis and Defendant County of San Mateo (the “County”) that culminates in the County constructing an asphalt swale along Upper Park Road (in unincorporated Redwood City) on Friday, December 4, 2006. This newly constructed swale runs parallel to the Toschis’ property line at the upper portion of a steep hill that is wooded and contained three mature heritage oak trees. In a letter dated December 29, 2006, the former Director of Public Works for the County, Neil Cullen, wrote that “the recent paving of the drainage swale was not intended to and will not eliminate the issue of storm water runoff on your property, and the runoff is likely to continue its historic pattern of draining onto your property.” In fact, the “historic pattern” of surface water runoff along Park Road was directly down the street to a drainage inlet, not onto the Toschis’ property. The Toschis, as well as numerous neighbors — including Defendant Rhonda Dallimonti — testified to varying degrees that the historic pattern of surface water runoff was down Park Road to the drainage inlet at the intersection of Park Road and Woodland Place. In addition, the Toschis hired Bruce Matheson, a professional engineer with Foundation Technologies, Inc., in the fall of 2006 to evaluate the damage caused by the surface water runoff. On December 14, 2006, Mr. Matheson prepared a report that provided in pertinent part: “It is our opinion … that the newly installed asphalt swale is incomplete and should be extended to the property line to eliminate the gap. If this is not done, it could result in undercutting the roadbed, the loss of more heritage Oak trees, as well as land sliding on the Toschi property, and present a serious safety hazard to you [the Toschis] and your neighbor [Grace Whipps].” On January 14, 2008, Mr. Matheson’s warning came to fruition — one of the Toschis’ heritage Oak trees fell onto the home and property of Grace Whipps. Fortunately, neither Ms. Whipps nor anyone else was injured when the approximately 80-foot tree came crashing down. The fallen tree did cause extensive property damage to both the property of Ms. Whipps and the property of the Toschis.

The case settled after Plaintiffs defeated Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. (United States District Court for the Northern District of California)

Confidential Consumer v. Confidential Product Distributor

This was a product defect case in which we obtained a settlement of $425,000 on behalf of Plaintiff, who was injured while skiing. Plaintiff purchased the skiing equipment which failed, causing a fall and resulting in a broken tibia and fibula. Plaintiff purchased the equipment from a retailer; however, the retailer did not have insurance or sufficient assets to compensate Plaintiff. As a result, we sued the distributor. The case settled shortly before trial and after all expert discovery had been completed.

Dolmat v. San Mateo County Transit District

This was a common carrier case in which we obtained a settlement of $390,000 on behalf of Plaintiff, who is disabled. Plaintiff was a passenger on a Redi-Wheels passenger bus. The operator of the bus forced Plaintiff to disembark in an unsafe location and then failed to assist her, causing her to overturn. This case settled one day before the trial was set to start. (San Mateo Superior Court)

Confidential Disabled Person v. Confidential Defendants

This was a case involving a person with a disability — who was injured due to violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act — in which we obtained a settlement of $300,000 and injunctive relief requiring that defendants repair the ADA violations.

Franklin v. County of Alameda

This was a civil rights case in which we obtained a settlement of $125,000 on behalf of Plaintiff who was an employee of the Youth and Family Services Bureau, which was part of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. Plaintiff claimed that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office terminated her, criminally investigated her, executed simultaneous search warrants on her personal automobile, home and private office, issued a warrant for her arrest, required her to post a bond and have a mug shot taken because Plaintiff complained too much about the Sheriff’s Office’s incompetence, mismanagement and fraudulent reporting regarding the use of Federal grant monies. This case settled one day before the trial was set to start. Please see Plaintiff’s Notice of Acceptance of County’s Offer to Compromise. (Alameda Superior Court)

Samiyev v. Krebs

This was a motor vehicle case in which we obtained a settlement of $125,000 at mediation on behalf of Plaintiff. Defendant failed to yield the right of way to Plaintiff. Defendant — who was 82 years old at the time — was stopped at a stop sign at 39th Avenue heading southbound when he attempted to cross Geary Boulevard. Plaintiff — who was 17 years old at the time — was traveling westbound on Geary Boulevard and, as he approached the intersection of 39th Avenue, Defendant pulled out in front of him. Plaintiff swerved to the left in order to avoid a collision with Defendant and, as a result, went onto the center island and struck a light pole. Plaintiff’s face struck the steering wheel on impact with the light pole, which rendered him unconscious, knocked out his two front teeth and broke his nose. We retained a neuropsychologist who established that Plaintiff suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. (San Francisco Superior Court)

Ulvestad, et al. v. Noravian, et al.

This was a property damage and personal injury case in which we obtained a settlement of $110,000 on behalf of Plaintiffs who are residents of the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco.

Plaintiffs James Sanguinetti and Graham Ulvestad were the owners of the two-story duplex located at 961 and 961A Rhode Island Street in San Francisco. On Tuesday, August 12, 2008 Graham “Gray” Ulvestad discovered that the family room in 961A Rhode Island, the lower residence, was flooded. She informed her husband James Sanguinetti, who is a licensed plumber, about the flooding. James immediately inspected the property for the source of the leak, but was unable to find it at that time. On Friday, August 15, ServiceMaster, a professional cleaning and removal service, gave an estimate for the cleanup of the sewage damage, but since the source of the water remained unknown, cleanup could not be started. On Monday, August 18, James and a plumber from Smelly Mel’s searched for the location of the leak into 961A and found that it was coming from a broken sewage pipe from the adjacent property to the north at 953 Rhode Island Street owned by David Noravian. James immediately notified Mr. Noravian that his sewage pipe was the cause of the flooding. Mr. Noravian then submitted a claim with his insurance carrier, Fireman’s Fund, and agreed to have a plumber snake a video camera down his sewage pipe to confirm the break and leak. After Mr. Noravian repaired the leak in his sewage pipe mid-September, ServiceMaster began drying and cleaning 961A Rhode Island on September 18 and removed the last of their equipment on October 10, 2008. During the cleaning process, ServiceMaster uncovered asbestos tape that previously was hidden in the walls. The presence of asbestos required removal by specialists. The process of removing the asbestos required that the lower unit be completely sealed to prevent any escape of hazardous materials to the upstairs unit. The presence of hazardous materials in the lower unit added to the stress of Plaintiffs as Gray was pregnant at this time and living upstairs with her husband and four-year old son. On August 19, Mr. Noravian first contacted his homeowners’ insurer, Fireman’s Fund. On Thursday, August 28, 2009, the procedure of snaking the video camera down Mr. Noravian’s sewage pipe, confirmed that the sewage that was flowing into Plaintiffs’ home was coming from Mr. Noravian’s broken sewage pipe. At the same time, it became clear that Mr. Noravian – and ultimately Fireman’s Fund – legally were liable for any damage caused by the sewage entering our clients’ home. On Friday, August 29, Mr. Noravian spoke with our clients and informed them that an adjuster from Fireman’s Fund would come to inspect the damage on Tuesday, September 2, 2009. The Fireman’s Fund adjuster, however, failed to show up on September 2 or any other date to inspect the damage caused by its insured. Instead, on September 12, Fireman’s Funds sent Plaintiffs a letter that stated in pertinent part: “[W]e have concluded that our insured is not legally responsible for the accident.” Prior to filing the lawsuit, Plaintiffs’ counsel contacted the Fireman’s Fund adjuster who stated that “the company likely would not pay more than $50,000.” Therefore, it became necessary to file the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs contended that Defendants were liable for sewage cleanup costs, personal property loss, repairs and rental loss totaling approximately $124,000. In addition, Plaintiffs contended that Defendants were liable for emotional distress caused by Defendants’ trespass.

The case settled during a mediation (Early Settlement Conference) sponsored by the Bar Association of San Francisco. (San Francisco Superior Court)

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