Court postpones trial in Berkeley co-op lawsuit after settlement reported

A settlement of two lawsuits involving a Berkeley senior housing cooperative was announced in court today, as the trial of one case was about to begin. The judge postponed the trial and made arrangements to have the settlement agreement submitted to the co-op members for comments and to the court for its approval.

Attorneys for a Berkeley senior housing cooperative and one of its members involved in a four-year-old lawsuit and a more recent related case appeared in court on the scheduled trial date today and reported that they had achieved a signed settlement agreement ending both lawsuits.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge George C. Hernandez, Jr., approved a proposal by David H. Schwartz, representing plaintiff Jonathan Pool, and Margaret Lesniak, representing Berkeley Town House Cooperative Corporation, to proceed with the necessary steps for making the settlement official. Hernandez and the attorneys agreed that the settlement would require the court’s approval of its fairness to the co-op and, before the court made its decision, all members of the co-op would be permitted to make comments on the proposed settlement terms. Hernandez stated that he would permit each member to comment either in writing, in advance of the approval hearing, or orally in person, at the approval hearing, but not both. Margaret J. Allen, representing seven of the eight defendants in the older suit, voiced her agreement with the arrangement.

Under the announced settlement procedure, the settlement terms will be confidential until 11 July 2016. On that date, Schwartz will file a motion asking the court to approve the settlement and the settlement agreement itself will be transmitted to the court and to all members of the co-op, with instructions on how members can comment. Members who elect to comment in writing will be required to submit their comments by 1 August 2016. The approval hearing will be set for a date after 1 August.

Hernandez asked the attorneys whether they wanted the trial removed from the court’s calendar or postponed in case the court rejects the settlement terms or the settlement otherwise fails to remain intact. Allen recommended a postponement, and Hernandez agreed. He set a new trial date of 4 November 2016.

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