La Conchita Lawsuit Settled, But It’s Not Over

Ventura County Responsible for Property Damage, Not Loss of Life

A lawsuit between La Conchita residents and Ventura County for the 2005 landslide that destroyed 13 houses and killed 10 people was settled on Monday, July 14. Ventura County Superior Court Judge Vincent O’Neill ruled the county was only liable for property losses, not loss of life.

Under terms of the settlement, the county-represented by Noel Klebaum-agreed not to seek its legal expenses against the residents and residents dropped their lawsuit against the county. The plaintiffs, a mix of La Conchita residents and family members of the deceased, had claimed the county contributed to the landslide by building a retaining wall. Klebaum insisted that the retaining wall was installed at the request of residents to keep dirt and rocks from falling on Vista Del Rincon Drive-the street on which most of the homes were damaged or destroyed. The suit was dismissed without prejudice, in other words it cannot be refiled.

A jury’s decision is still pending in La Conchita’s civil case against the owners of La Conchita Ranch Company (located above Vista Del Rincon Drive), which started in late June and is expected to continue for several months. The plaintiff’s attorney, Anthony Murray (of the Loeb and Loeb firm of Los Angeles), is claiming that La Conchita Ranch Company over-watered its 688-acre hilltop orchard-creating a dangerous formula for an already unstable slope.

The civil case has featured more than 200 expert witnesses, including engineers and hydrologists, to present different interpretations of the ranch’s liability. Attorney Richared E. Morton is representing the Ranch Company and maintains that the avocado and citrus company had no way to predict the outcome of its watering techniques.

The deceased La Conchita residents included Tony Alvis, 53; Vanessa Bryson, 28; Christina Kennedy, 45; John Morgan, 56; Patrick Rodreick, 47; Charley Womack, 51; Michelle Wallet, 37; and her three daughters: Hannah, 10; Raven, 6; and Paloma, 2.

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