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REAL PROPERTY, Trespass - Nuisance

SETTLEMENT: $235,000 (cash)

CASE: Donald J. Morosi, as Trustee for the Separate Property of Donald J. Morosi Trust vs. State of California, Mark Preciado, et al./SCUK CVPO 0390563

COURT DATE: Mendocino Superior Court/ October 7, 2004

ATTORNEYS: Plaintiff --Barri Kaplan Bonapart (Bonapart & Associates, Sausalito). Defendant --Bruce A. Behrens, David Gossage, Karl H. Schmidt, David Sandler (Office of the City Attorney, San Francisco); Landa S. Morris (California Department of Transportation, Legal Division, San Francisco).

TECHNICAL EXPERTS: Plaintiff --Raymond F. Moritz, arborist and forester, Mill Valley. Defendant --Frank Mileham, forester/real estate appraiser, Eureka.

FACTS: The State of California paid $235,000 as settlement for damage to trees on 188 acres on the plaintiff's property that had been burnt by fire in 2002. The suit alleged that the fire which destroyed trees on the plaintiff's ranch was caused by a CalTrans' employee's improper operation of a road grader which caused sparks to ignite brush and fire. The fire spread to surrounding properties, including the plaintiff's property and burned trees.

PLAINTIFF CONTENTIONS: The plaintiff alleged damages for negligence under Public Resource Code Section 4435; nuisance under Civil Code Section 3479 and conversion against the State's employee and nuisance and vicarious liability under Government Code Section 815.2 as against the State.

DEFENDANT CONTENTIONS: The defendants disputed that the State's employee was negligent in the operation of his equipment, or that his actions amounted to nuisance, trespass or conversion. The State disputed liability under all theories.

OTHER INFORMATION: The case was not settled at mediation with Kenneth Gack of JAMS. It was later settled at the mandatory settlement conference before Judge Eric L. Labowitz.

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