Local News in Brief : Homeowners Win in Court

Ruling for local property owners after a yearlong trial, a jury decided Wednesday that governmental actions are partly responsible for a slow-moving Rolling Hills landslide that has destroyed or damaged as many as 30 luxury homes since 1980.

The verdict in Torrance Superior Court upheld the suit brought by current or former owners of 22 properties against the California Water Service Co. and the Rolling Hills Community Assn., which maintains roads and other common areas in the private city.

The jury also assigned responsibility to three other one-time defendants--Los Angeles County, the City of Rolling Hills and Lockwood-Singh engineers, who investigated prospective home sites--but they have made cash settlements totaling more than $5 million with the property owners. The property owners, many of whom still live in in the rustic sea-view area known as the Flying Triangle, were held blameless.

A separate trial, expected to start at the end of the month, will determine the overall monetary award to the property owners, who sued for $31 million.

Property owners contended that the association used canyons as a drainage system, eroding canyon walls that supported the land, and that numerous leaks in water lines helped keep the land moving after the slide began. The defendants said the slide was caused by heavy rainfall during the late 1970s.

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