Upwardly Mobile Residents? Court duns Carson park owner for $7 Million

Posted By Ask Law Group || 6-Oct-2014

Tenants of a Carson mobilehome park were celebrating a civil court victory over the owner of the blighted park Friday after a Superior Court jury awarded them $7 million in punitive damages.

But nobody was counting the money yet, or even thinking about leaving the Avalon Carson Mobile Home Park that owner Darryl Wong has been trying to close for more than a decade.

“We’re just waiting to see what Mr. Wong’s next step will be,” said Carol Myers, a 13-year resident of Avalon Carson who helped spearhead the tenants’ fight against an owner who tried to force them out while the park fell into disrepair.

“He can settle right away, he can appeal…our lawyers said don’t even expect anything for the next year.”

The money, however, matters less to the tenants than the victory.

“It’s been this long just to get a jury to say he’s the bad guy we always knew him to be. I feel vindicated. And we hope this sends a message to (mobile-home park owners) to treat tenants like you want to be treated,” Myers said.

Last week, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury decided that Wong owed tenants damages in the amount of about $4 million.

The extra $7 million in punitive damages awarded Friday was intended as punishment for park owners and was “every penny we asked for,” said jubilant plaintiffs’ attorney, James C. Allen.

Wong’s parents, Delphine and Willy Wong, who owned about 50 percent interest in the park, also are liable for punitive damages.

“His parents, under the law, were just as guilty for sitting back and allowing him to do it,” Allen said.

Myers and her husband were awarded $213,000 in punitive damages, on top of about $350,000 in actual damages. Their lawyers took the case on contingency but are hoping to get attorney fees assessed against the Wongs and let tenants like the Myerses keep the entire judgment, Allen said.

The monetary slap was justice for a decade of Wong’s stubbornness and greed, tenants said.

Wong first tried to close Avalon Carson more than 10 years ago after tenants refused to agree to a rent increases for the spaces on which their mobile homes sit.

By law, Wong had to pay owners a relocation fee because it can cost $10,000 to move a mobile home once it has been installed. Wong didn’t want to pay what the city of Carson said he owned, however, and he sued.

Appeal after appeal

Wong lost and appealed the decision. He lost and appealed against. And against. All the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case.

In the meantime, tenants said, Wong did everything he could to empty out the park. When an owner sold a unit, Wong would refuse to rent space to the new owner, tenants said.

Some owners sold their mobile homes for pennies on the dollar. Others simply abandoned them while the park grew increasingly unlivable Weeds sprouted in vacant lots, and bathrooms and common laundry rooms were gutted and shuttered.

“When we first stared coming here, this was one of the best parks around,” said Jack Rains, 78, who along with his wife abandons Colorado in the winter for Carson. “It was horrible to see what happened to this place and to our friends.”

In all, Rains and his wife were awarded nearly $240,000 but they have no intention of leaving Avalon Carson either, he said. They have friends in the park, and it’s close to their doctor.

The Myerses aren’t going anywhere either.

“Jack and I like mobilehome living,” said Carol Myers, 62. “There’s a community feeling, a safe feeling. Right now, we are kind of in a state of shock about what we’re going to do with the rest of our lives.”

When you need help,

Allen Semelsberger & Kaelin, LLP

Send My Information