Berkeley, California, 30 January 2014
In a tentative ruling issued today, the judge in a lawsuit involving a Berkeley senior housing cooperative nullified one of two settlements that had been negotiated among attorneys for the parties.
Judge George C. Hernandez’s ruling set aside the settlement of monetary claims between plaintiff Jonathan Pool and defendants Almalee Henderson, Judith Wehlau, Charles Tuggle, Katherine Miles, Nancy Epanchin, Raymond Dirodis, and Rita Zwerdling, current and former directors of Berkeley Town House Cooperative Corporation. Hernandez stated in the ruling that he “may also be inclined” to set aside the other settlement as well, between the corporation and contractors Garry Secrest and Esteban Cardiel for allegedly defective construction performed by them at the corporation’s 9-story Berkeley apartment building.
Today’s ruling was issued after a dispute emerged among the parties over the terms of the two settlements. The defendants claimed that the money owed to the corporation by Secrest ($25,415) and Cardiel ($199,000) under their settlement could be used to satisfy the defendants’ $224,415 debt to the corporation under their settlement with Pool. But Pool claimed that the corporation was entitled to keep the Secrest-Cardiel money and also receive the promised money from the defendants, for a total of $448,830, without either settlement offsetting the other. In addition, the defendants claimed that their settlement with Pool satisfied all of Pool’s claims in the case, while Pool argued that it satisfied only the monetary claims, leaving other claims about earthquake safety, financial accountability, and co-op member rights still to be resolved.
Pool had proposed that the court set aside his settlement with the defendants and reinstate it later only if the defendants gave up their disputed interpretations. Pool had also asked the court to submit the settlement between the corporation and the contractors to the corporation’s membership for comments and then to a final court hearing for approval. Pool claimed this was necessary because that settlement had been negotiated by an attorney answering to a board of directors dominated by defendants, and thus serving their interests instead of the corporation membership’s interests. While agreeing to set aside the Pool settlement, Hernandez rejected Pool’s other proposal, instead suggesting that the court might set aside that settlement, too, if he were to receive a request to do so.
If no party contests the ruling, it will become final without a hearing. Otherwise, a hearing on it will take place at Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on 4 February at 2:30 p.m.