LOS ANGELES -A woman who has sued Southwestern Law School, alleging that she and her relatives suffered severe emotional distress after her 3-year-old son contracted lead poisoning at a Southewestern-owned rental property, is seeking an expedited trial of her suit due to the ages of her minor children.
Carina Castaneda is the lead plaintiff in the Los Angeles Superior Court case along with her afflicted son, Isaias, second son, 1-year-old Iyse Melendez, and mother, Maria Jesus Salazar Garcia, 73. The other defendants are Charles Dunn Real Estate Services, Inc. and Beach Front Property Management, Inc.
The family’s suit alleges that Southwestern failed to properly own, operate and manage their Shatto Place apartment complex in Koreatown. On Tuesday, the plaintiffs’ attorneys filed court papers with Judge Maurice A. Leiter asking that a trial be scheduled within 120 days of the Dec. 13 hearing on the accelerated trial motion, noting that both children are under age 14.
“Isaias and Iyse have lived at the property since birth,” the family’s lawyers explain in their court papers. “During the time that plaintiffs lived at the property, blighted by dangerous levels of deteriorated lead-based paint, peeling paint, subject to persistent cockroach infestations and other indicia of substandard housing which have caused plaintiffs repeated and significant bodily injuries, emotional distress and property damage.”
The lead-based paint in the Castaneda family’s apartment “poisoned young Isaias,” the family’s lawyers further maintain in their court papers.
In addition, on June 30 urban entomology expert Josh Shoemaker inspected the plaintiffs’ apartment and documented an ongoing moderate cockroach infestation, noting that the accumulation of German cockroach fecal material throughout the unit evidences a long term problem and/or a past severe infestation,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys state in their court papers, adding, “Mr. Shoemaker concluded that the longstanding cockroach infestation in the apartment constitutes a health hazard for plaintiffs.”
Castaneda submitted a sworn declaration in support of her family’s motion. She says she moved into the building in April 2014 and that the paint on the windows and door frames in the unit was cracked, chipped, flaked and/or was worn down to bare wood or almost bare wood.
“One of the windows was at the head of Isaias’ bed and … he repeatedly mouthed or chew the window sills and put paint chips in his mouth,” Castaneda says. “He would also mouth and bite the closet door of the apartment.”
Castaneda says that since the lead poisoning, she believes Isaias has regressed in any progress that he previously made and that she is worried about him.
“Before the lead poisoning, Isaias had some words, but now he rarely uses them, and the primary way he communicate is by pointing or bringing me things,” Castaneda says. “His attention span is not good, he can be moody and he throws temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. He cannot write and is not interested in books. He is so far behind other boys his age and it is very concerning.
Castaneda further says cockroaches have invaded every corner of their small unit and that she has to constantly wash and re-wash cookware and dishes. The roaches nest inside their furniture and kitchen appliances and she has had to throw out microwaves and toaster ovens among other appliances, Castaneda further maintains.
“My family and I have been bitten all over our bodies by cockroaches and Isaias has experienced skin infections,” Castaneda says. “We have seen cockroaches inside the cabinets in the kitchen, crawling on the walls and floors of the bedroom and bathroom. They hide and lay eggs in our drawers, underwear, inside every hole, crack or crevice in the apartment, even in the electrical switches. I have found cockroaches in and around Iyse’s crib and on Isaias’ bed.”
Castaneda further says she stays awake at night fearing that cockroaches will crawl inside her children’s ears or noses.
“When (Isaias) has a meltdown from the cockroaches, he screams, hits and kicks me and tries to run out of the apartment,” according to Castaneda, who further says it takes her at least one hour to calm him down.