SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A San Francisco couple scored a major legal victory against their former landlord for wrongful eviction Friday with a record verdict of more than $3.5 million.
Husband and wife plaintiffs Dale Duncan and Marta Mendoza claimed they were wrongfully evicted from their San Francisco home more than two years ago.
On Friday after a four and half week trial, the couple won a record $3,528,000 verdict for harassment and wrongful eviction.
While Duncan and Mendoza are now officially millionaires, they said the experience has taken its toll.
“I would probably rather have my life back than any award. It was our home,” explained Duncan.
After a two-and-a-half year long battle with their landlord Anne Kihagi, her sister Christina Mwangi, and their company Zoriall LLC, the Duncan-Mendoza family is thankful it’s over.
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“I feel so relieved, but still I miss my home. That was my home,” said Mendoza. “I can’t go back in time and recover all the pain that we suffered there.”
Duncan and Mendoza had lived at 71 Hill Street in San Francisco for 21 years when Zoriall bought the property in 2014. Shortly after that purchase is when a “pattern of harassment” and a decrease in basic housing services started.
“They had a business plan with business tactics of intimidation, harassment, and retaliation toward the rent control, long-term tenants,” said the couple’s attorney Steve McDonald.
McDonald says back in 2013, Zoriall purchased approximately 10 buildings in the Bay Area with about 50 rent-controlled units for more than $25 million. That means more victims like the Duncan-Mendoza family could be out there.
“Hopefully, this will send a message to other landlords,” said Duncan. “The harm that can be done to people just to monetize their units a little more, just to squeeze some more money out of them, it’s pretty dehumanizing.”
Earlier this year, the San Francisco City Attorney’s office received government penalties of $2.7 million against the same landlords.