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California Briefing / VENTURA COUNTY

Ranch held liable in 2005 landslide

August 21, 2008|From the Associated Press

A jury has ruled that a ranch company's negligence helped lead to a 2005 landslide that killed 10 people in the coastal community of La Conchita.

After a nearly two-month trial, the Ventura County Superior Court jury Tuesday found that the La Conchita Ranch Co. did not build a sufficient drainage system, which could have helped prevent the Jan. 10, 2005, slide that followed fierce winter storms. The slide destroyed 13 homes and damaged 23 others in La Conchita.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs had argued that the ranch, which grows lemons and avocados on a hilltop overlooking the community, saturated its orchards and created a "perfect recipe" for a landslide.

The ranch's lawyers countered that the area is geologically unstable and has had at least six landslides, including a 1909 slide that killed four railroad workers.

"I'm glad the ranch is being held accountable," said community leader Mike Bell. "They had every opportunity to prevent what happened to our town, and hopefully now they're going to pay for it."

The jury exonerated the ranch's manager, David Orr, and Ventura County, saying they were not negligent. The damages phase of the trial will begin Monday.

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