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Big Rock Trial Deadline Set for Suits With Plaintiffs Over 70

May 15, 1986

Nine lawsuits accusing the California Department of Transportation of contributing to the 1983 landslide at Malibu's Big Rock Mesa must go to trial by Aug. 28 because the plaintiffs are over 70 years old, the state Court of Appeal has ruled.

Four other suits with plaintiffs over 70 also will probably proceed but were not part of the appellate court decision, said attorney Kenneth Chiate, who represents about 50 of more than 200 Big Rock families suing various government agencies.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maurice R. Hogan Jr. will set the trial date May 27, Chiate said. "The trial will probably only be against Caltrans if our clients agree to waive their priority right" on the other agencies, Chiate said.

Caltrans is the only agency not involved in the appeal of the first Big Rock case completed in Superior Court, that of August and Margaret Hansch, Chiate said.

Los Angeles County was ordered to pay the Hansches $2 million to compensate for the destruction of their home by the slide. Caltrans was not held responsible for the slide. The decision, in what was hailed as a test case by attorneys for Big Rock residents, is on appeal and no appellate ruling is expected before late fall.

The county also is pressing forward with countersuits, contending that the residents are responsible for the slide.

The suits involving plaintiffs over 70 had been stalled while the Hansch case made its way through the courts.

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