CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Abraham Sandoval showing a picture of fire damage in his client's home during his closing argument
Compton, CA - A California state court jury has returned a $500,000 punitive damages verdict against a real estate agent accused of concealing a home’s extensive fire damage from the eventual buyer.
The Los Angeles County jury found in favor of plaintiff Jose Jimenez in a trial that began on July 21. Jimenez sued his real estate agent Louis Teque and Capero Investments Inc. in 2018 after purchasing a home he claimed he could not live in due to serious fire damage caused by defective wiring.
Jimenez accused Teque of failing to provide necessary disclosures about the home’s condition in official documentation before closing on the sale, but the defense maintained Jimenez knew about the home’s condition and declined to undertake voluntary inspections that could have revealed the damage.
The verdict also includes $106,852 in compensatory damages largely related to Jimenez’ ongoing payments on the unoccupied house and his past and ongoing payments for rental housing.
After the trial attorney Abraham Sandoval of Sandoval Law, who represented Jimenez, told CVN the verdict far outpaces their initial settlement demand of $100,000, which would have covered the economic damages awarded.
“The Defendants refused to make any legitimate offer either before or during the trial,” Sandoval said. “Therefore, it was our position we were going to go to verdict no matter what.”
An attorney for the defendants did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sandoval said the documentation provided to Jimenez obviously omitting any reference to the home’s substantial fire damage played a key role in persuading the jury to award punitive damages.
“I focused on that heavily and also on the numerous admissions by the agent and brokerage during trial that they had prior knowledge of defects with the home,” Sandoval said. “Instead of disclosing them as is their inarguable duty, they hid them and drafted false disclosures to mislead their own client so that they could close the transaction and earn commissions.”
Sandoval characterized punitive damages awards in Compton as “very few and far between” and said he felt the jury reacted strongly to the idea of a community pushing back on predatory behavior by real estate agents.
“I asked the jury to send a strong message that this type of behavior is not acceptable in our community,” Sandoval said. “We cannot allow professional real estate agents to falsify disclosures and otherwise mislead their own clients to their determent, and then look the other way.”
Offering his advice to newer trial attorneys, Sandoval highlighted his decision not to engage in unnecessary confrontation with defense witnesses but to instead focus on redirecting them to provide the evidence Sandoval wanted to get in front of the jury.
“Ultimately, all of these Defense witnesses, through their testimony, helped Plaintiff,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval had kind words for his opposing counsel in the father-and-son defense team of Alex and Maximilano Galindo of Curd Galindo & Smith LLP, describing them as “excellent lawyers.”
“But in this case, as I told the jury during closing, there was a mountain of evidence, and ultimately none of it was refuted,” he said.
The trial took place before Judge Michael Shultz.
The case is captioned Jose Ivan Rodriguez Jimenez v. Capero Invetments Inc. & Louis Brian Teque, case number 18CMCV00035, in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
E-mail David Siegel at email@example.com