Barlow Tenants Sue Landlord for Woeful Failure to Implement Legally Required Flood Protections

SANTA ROSA, July 3, 2019—Nine businesses filed suit today in Sonoma County Superior Court, alleging that the owners of The Barlow—before, during and after the flooding that occurred in late February of this year—woefully failed to implement legally required flood protections, causing Plaintiffs millions in losses.

The plaintiff businesses are: Community Market, Crooked Goat Brewing, Friedeman Wines, Two Dog Night Creamery, Scout West County, Tamarind Clothing, The Nectary, Victorian Farmstead Meat Company, and Fern Barn. The named defendants are Barney Aldridge and three companies owned and controlled by Mr. Aldridge: Barlow Star, LLC; Sebastopol Industrial Park, LLC; and Highway Partners, LLC. The Barlow is a high-end commercial development located in Sebastopol, California.

As alleged in the complaint, The Barlow’s development permit, the City of Sebastopol’s Municipal Code, and Plaintiffs’ leases all required the defendants fulfill detailed obligations before, during, and after any flood, so as to protect the plaintiffs and other businesses in The Barlow. Centermost were defendants’ obligations related to a system of flood barriers, drains, and sump pumps. If the landlord fulfilled these obligations during flooding, only a small amount of water would enter plaintiffs’ businesses and any that entered would be quickly drained away before rising to any depth.

In late February, heavy rains caused the nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa to flood. When this occurred, the Complaint alleges, it became clear that the defendants were completely unprepared to meet their obligations. Among the facts detailed in the Complaint, defendants had less than a tenth of the necessary personnel on site to install the flood barriers and those there were untrained. Defendants further lacked the necessary equipment to install the barriers, started the process of installation way too late, and installed the barriers incorrectly. As further detailed, the defendants failed, in advance of the flood, to make sure that the flood barriers were properly maintained, stored, labeled or staged and failed to ensure that the system of drains and pumps inside the plaintiffs’ businesses were in working order.

As a result of these failures, the complaint alleges, the plaintiffs suffered massive physical damage to their property, continuing loss of business, and harm to their business values. The complaint further alleges that defendants exacerbated and increased these injuries by punishing plaintiffs for engaging counsel and falsely claiming that the defendants did everything required to protect plaintiffs from flood damage. On May 23, 2019, the City of Sebastopol issued a report that confirms many of the Complaint’s allegations.

“The defendants’ conduct alleged in the Complaint represents the worst kind of selfish business practices,” said the plaintiff’s attorney Stuart G. Gross of Gross & Klein LLP. “Barney Aldridge and his companies ignore their explicit legal obligations to keep plaintiffs’ businesses safe from flood damage. Then, in an effort to save their own skin, they punished any tenant who stood up for themselves and spread a ridiculous narrative that they had done everything possible to protect their tenants. Given how badly the plaintiffs’ businesses were damaged, this created the false impression that these business could not properly be protected and so are less valuable. These plaintiffs are anchors of The Barlow and the broader community. They are owed better.”

The lawsuit is titled Crooked Goat Brewing, LLC, et al. v. Barlow Star, LLC, et al., No. SCV-264744 (Sonoma Superior Crt.).

Copies of the Complaint can be found here.