Marinwood family and district settle landslide lawsuit
Marinwood residents Barbara and Alan Miller in their back yard on Sept. 20, 2017. They have lived there for more than half a century. (Robert Tong/Marin Independent Journal)
By KERI BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org | Marin Independent Journal
March 21, 2020 at 2:11 p.m.
The Marinwood Community Services District has reached a $142,500 settlement with a couple whose home was almost destroyed by a landslide.
The deal closes a three-year dispute over who should pay for repairs to the hillside behind the residence of Barbara and Alan Miller.
“They are grateful that the slope is fixed and they are able to continue living in their home of 55 years,” said the couple’s daughter, Wendy Miller. “They bear no grudge toward the district — they just wish there had been some compassion and sense of responsibility, and we had not been forced to take legal action.”
The landslide happened on Jan. 10, 2017, when a district-owned fire road atop the hillside collapsed during heavy rains, sending mud and debris in piles up to the back door of the couple’s home.
Wendy Miller said the district declined to help pay for the repairs to the hillside and fire road, prompting Miller to hire her own contractor to do the work — rather than wait for the rainy season to come again and do further damage or endanger her parents’ lives.
Attorneys for the Miller family and the district battled it out in a lawsuit and counter-lawsuit. They settled just before a trial was scheduled to start in Marin County Superior Court.
Wendy Miller said between the repair costs and legal fees, the family spent at least $200,000 over the three years.
Eric Dreikosen, the Marinwood district manager, said the settlement does not assign blame for the slide. He declined to elaborate on specifics.
“The Millers filed suit against the district based on a landslide that occurred during heavy rains in early 2017, which they claimed was caused by emergency drainage work the district performed on district-owned property,” Dreikosen said in an emailed statement. “The district denied, and continues to deny, any liability for causing the slide. However, in an effort to avoid further litigation that would have been costly for both sides, the Millers and the district agreed to a settlement of $142,500.”
“This settlement represents a compromise for both sides — especially since the Millers were seeking to recover significantly more than that amount at trial,” Dreikosen added.
Editor's Note: The Millers initially requested that the district pay 50% of repairs which in 2017 amounted to around $50k. The Millers are 90 years old and did not want the hassle. The landslide was always going to end in a settlement but the Marinwood CSD decided to roll the dice and tried to use legal intimidation to get the Millers to drop their claim. So now, Marinwood CSD pays all of the repairs and both sides legal expense. It really is unconscionable. The Millers have lived in the district for over fifty years and did not deserve this. All of the current Marinwood CSD board approved this tactic. The lawyer was provided through Marin County Attorney's office. ALL of our recent tax increase will be needed pay for this. Where are the adults?