Easier Recourse For Mudslide Victims
Sep. 25, 1985
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Home and property owners who are the victims of mudslides will have an easier time suing governments that own land uphill of them following a state appeals court ruling.
The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that about 30 residents of homes damaged by mudslides and flooding during January 1982 storms in the city of Pacifica did not have to prove that the city or San Mateo County was at fault.
Instead, the court said the government, like any private landowner, could be liable for any damage that its actions on its own land had caused on property further down the hill.
The suits contend that the city and county, which owned uphill property, maintained it in a dangerous condition and failed to build an adequate drainage system to divert water and prevent flooding and slides.
The homeowners' lawyer, Jeanette Shipman, said two homes lying downhill from county land were destroyed by mudslides and others were severely damaged during the storms. She said the case before the court involved about 30 of the 109 suits filed by Pacifica residents.
The portion of the suits seeking damages without proof of fault was dismissed by San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Ragan.
But a three-member panel of the appeals court ordered the suits reinstated.
The opinion said the law allowing suits for maintaining property in a dangerous condition did not prohibit the homeowners from also suing the government for causing a ''nuisance,'' which does not require proof of fault or advance notice.