When landlord Ed St. George asked if he could stand up in court to display his typical procedure for inspecting vacated apartments, the plaintiff’s attorney Duane Westrup responded, “Sure, as long as you don’t hit anybody.” | Credit: Paul Wellman/file photo

Harry Tran thought Isla Vista landlord Ed St. George stiffed him for $600 of his $1,400 security deposit and took St. George to court claiming he failed to provide him a proper accounting. Tran, a former UCSB student who now lives in Orange County, would emerge as the lead plaintiff in a sprawling class-action lawsuit against St. George that could have involved no fewer than 3,200 of St. George’s tenants over an eight-year time span.

But when the dust settled in Judge Pauline Maxwell’s courtroom late last week, Maxwell dismissed the case against St. George even before it was time for his attorneys to make their case. Tran’s attorneys, she ruled, failed to provide a shred of evidence that St. George improperly deducted for normal wear and tear on the premises from anyone’s security deposit.

Worse yet for Tran, he may now find himself on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees that St. George, as the prevailing party, is entitled to sue for. St. George estimated his legal defense cost $400,000. St. George’s attorney, Robert Forouzandeh, said the true costs were significantly higher than that.


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