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
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
“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.”