LA Slum Trial Ends in $2 Million Settlement

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – After a week of stomach-churning testimony about sewage and cockroaches, the owner of an alleged South Los Angeles slum reached a $2 million settlement, attorneys for the tenants say.
     The tenants of the 26-unit building on Maple Avenue brought the lawsuit against their former landlord, Franco Haiem, and Bracha Investments two years ago, claiming that they lived in studios and apartments unfit for habitation under his ownership from 2009 until 2012.
     For the past week, Haiem has faced a superior court trial on the claims of 91 tenants, including children and the elderly, about raw sewage, exposed electrical wires, dirty hallways, water leaks, mold, and a severe cockroach and mice infestation. Their latest complaint sought damages of about $14 million.
     Several tenants settled before proceedings began, and attorneys for the remainder announced a $2.18 million settlement Friday afternoon, equating to almost $22,000 per tenant.
     “We are thankful that justice has been served and hopeful the compensation our clients will receive will help change their lives for the better,” Sharre Lotfollahi of Kirkland & Ellis said.
     At trial, Haiem testified he had put his “heart and soul” into the building, and treated his tenants like family. Faulting them for conditions in the building, the landlord told jurors that he had run Bracha from his car and kept financial records in the trunk.
     The lawsuit was for negligence, breach of implied warranty of habitability, unlawful collection of rent, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
     Sonia Pflaster of Inner City Law Center, which also represented the plaintiffs, called it “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.”
     Judge Michael Linfield presided over the four days of the jury trial.
     Kirkland & Ellis said in a statement that the settlement includes other funds.
     Haiem’s attorney, Kere Tickner of Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara, could not immediately be reached Friday after business hours.

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