Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jack T. Ryburn has dismissed the cases against two of the defendants in the first of 230 lawsuits that homeowners filed to recover damages suffered in the Big Rock Mesa landslide of 1983.

The first case, which may serve as a test for the others, was filed by Margaret and August Hansch against the County of Los Angeles, the county Flood Control District, county Waterworks District 29 and the state Department of Transportation. The Hansches contend that the agencies caused the slide and are liable for damages to their home, attorney’s fees and emotional distress.

On Monday, Ryburn dismissed the cases against Waterworks District 29 and Caltrans, ruling that the plaintiffs failed to prove that either entity was responsibile for the damages. The homeowners had claimed that leaks in the waterworks system and Caltrans cuts in the hillside had contributed to the slide.

Ryburn’s decision means that the plaintiffs will focus on the county’s and flood control district’s public works on the mesa. Richard Norton, the attorney for the Hansches, has been presenting the plaintiff’s case since the trial began in June. The county is represented by William Vaughn of O’Melveny & Myers.


Waterworks attorney David B. Casselman of Wasserman, Comden & Casselman said Ryburn’s decision effectively ends the trial against the waterworks district in the Hansch case and is a “beacon” for the remaining lawsuits.