Jury rules in favor of second Howie Court homeowner

August 23, 2000
Santa Paula News
The Ventura County Flood Control District has been hit with another judgment due to property damage on Howie Court in Santa Paula when a jury awarded $300,000 to the owner whose home was damaged in the 1998 El Nino storms. Gloria Pennock said if the county had paid attention to complaints in 1995 that their debris basin - constructed in the early 1990s - and heavy rains had altered the course of the Fagan Barranca flowing below Howie Court, damage in 1998 - and the judgments against the flood district - could have been averted.A separate jury recently found in favor of another Howie Court family who were awarded $400,000 for property and other damages.Unlike the earlier decision, the jury voted 12-0 that the county flood control district was 100 percent liable for the damage from the turbulent waters of Fagan Barranca that undercut Howie Court property in 1998.Gloria Pennock added that she and her attorney expect that the county will appeal the decision, already in process on the other lawsuit won by unanimous jury decision on behalf of property owners Lupe and Macario Medrano.“Oh, a motion will be filed, and an appeal gone through, a long, drawn out and costly process that the taxpayers of Ventura County will again pay,” said Pennock.Pennock said she lived in the home for over two decades “without any problems until the basin was built. . .1995 was the beginning of a series of problems; even the city wrote the county in 1995 telling of the problems of the basin and the creek, but they never heard back from them.”Pennock also wrote the flood district in 1995 after heavy rains and the basin “plugged up and all that water pulverized over it and eroded property,” straightening and deepening the channel.“I wrote in 1995 about the situation but nothing was done, they didn’t even respond to my letter,” until Pennock wrote again.
The county worked on the basin and adjoining property but did nothing to protect those who lived downstream, she added, a main point of the lawsuits against the county. Her attorney, Alan R. Templeman stressed that the “county didn’t take into consideration the people downstream, protected their own property but not anyone else,” almost guaranteeing future damage during heavy rain activity.The county, like in the Medrano case, laid much blame on the record El Nino storms of 1998, among other factors including the creation of the residential section so near the creek in the 1960s, but the jury didn’t buy it.“Thank God I wrote and kept that letter,” from 1995, said Pennock. “It showed the jury that something was seriously wrong before the 1998 storm.”Unlike the Medranos, who were forced from their home for almost two years, Pennock didn’t have to move out, but she has been living with the damage including wide structural separations and a cracked foundation. “The walls are popping right off the foundation, and I’ve found rodents and rattle snakes in my house that have come in under the patio door and through the cracks. . .it’s a mess, but fixable, although I couldn’t get it fixed until this lawsuit was resolved. I’m living here with two of my three sons and they all really helped me through this ordeal, really shored me up.”Pennock is relieved the weeks-long trial and two days of jury deliberation are over, but is bracing herself for the county’s motion and possible appeal.“I think people out there supporting the system should be aware where their money is being spent and how it’s being spent,” she noted. “It’s being wasted in my view. . .”

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.