Joel B Castro

Joel B Castro

Founding Attorney
Location:
Los Angeles, California
Phone:
(310) 966-6060
Email:

Experience

Joel B. Castro, Owner and Managing Partner of Castro & Associates, has been recognized for showing dedication, leadership and excellence in construction defect litigation. The recent January 2018, $55 million settlement shows continuing leadership and success in handling complex construction claims. The $55 million represents the highest recovery for a construction defect case in the county as reported by The Los Angeles Daily Journal on January 5, 2018. Over four decades the firm has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for its clients in successful construction litigation.

In 1977 Joel Castro began representing condominium homeowner associations in construction defect litigation and as general counsel. In 1984 he began working on a large 200 unit condominium project in Monterey Hills. Monterey Hills was found to be sitting on a defective 100 foot land fill constructed for the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency.

Over 30 parties were involved in the litigation. Before trial there were over 130 party depositions and over 40 expert depositions taken. Over one million Construction documents were databased and produced. The case, the longest civil jury trial in Los Angeles county, was tried over 9 months before a Superior Court jury. Over 3000 exhibits and several Scale Models were received in evidence. Thirty-five experts testified and 25,000 pages of trial transcripts were generated.

The jury returned a verdict of $23,000,000 which included court awarded attorney fees, expert costs and interest. As a result of this favorable jury verdict, all Monterey Hills owners settled their claims for $65,000,000. The $65,000,000 represented all remaining coverage for insurance carriers after they paid defense firms $40,000,000 in defense costs. Mr. Castro was instrumental in achieving that settlement.

General Construction Expertise

Mr. Castro has litigated most types of major complex construction cases and has performed structural, waterproofing, soils and general construction investigations for commercial, industrial and residential projects. He has been cited by the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily Journal for his skill in litigating complex multi-party cases. Both Los Angeles Times and National Geographic have cited the Castro firm for setting new standards for forensic investigations following the collapse of the Northridge Meadows complex during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and later, the 2003 Acorn Building collapse during the San Simeon Earthquake.

Mr. Castro tried the first structural design defect case in Los Angeles County in a four month jury trial. Between the structural, waterproofing and general defect phases over $5,500,000 was recovered for the 150 unit condominium complex. He was the first attorney to recover punitive damages in a residential condominium case against the developer, Shapell Industries. He has litigated a luxury twenty story high rise in Westwood against M.J. Brock and Gruen that settled for several million dollars.

Mr. Castro represented the Port of Los Angeles for the City of Los Angeles for construction delay and engineering claims involving wharf construction and improvements. The Port of Los Angeles, known as America's Port, is the nation's premier gateway for international commerce and the busiest seaport in the Western Hemisphere. That case required tracking of hundreds of thousands of documents. The Castro firm was asked to design and create a database and a critical path timeline to track the documents and evaluate the extra work performed for the City. The database and critical path timeline worked so well that the case was settled favorably before trial.

In 1993, Mr. Castro litigated the Sea Colony, a luxury, 144 unit condominium project in Santa Monica. That case involved major structural claims for two-way concrete slabs and four story wood frame condominiums built atop the slabs. One week after being assigned out for trial the case settled for $6,200,000. Mr. Castro has also performed advanced structural analysis for the Jewish Federation, Milken West Valley Community Campus, and administrative center in Canoga Park. He has represented the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

Current Practice

The recent January 2018, $55 million settlement was a highly complex multi-party litigation with 52 subcontractors and design professionals. Over 5 million documents were produced and analyzed for the 400 days of depositions. It involved a Metro Rail Transit Oriented Development [TOD] built as the flagship for the subway stations in the City. In January 2018, the Los Angeles Daily Journal devoted 3 pages to what it reported as the largest construction defect recovery in Los Angeles County.

Under his stewardship, the Castro firm has become one of the most prominent construction and failure analysis law firms in the country. Mr. Castro has led the way in helping earthquake victims resolve damage and injury claims to put their lives back together. Forbes magazine wrote in 2017 that the Castro firm's "unique expertise combines science and law, with construction as the foundation." Forbes writes that the Castro firm is "where law bridges science."

Among the firm's proudest accomplishments was the successfully tried Myrick v. Mastagni, jury trial in San Luis Obispo. Jennifer Myrick and Marilyn Zafuto, lost their lives during the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake, when the Acorn Building where they worked, collapsed and killed them. In 2010, the California Court of Appeal, affirmed the trial verdict and ordered the case published in California, which was also reported nationally. The published Myrick verdict has enabled the construction industry to adopt new retrofit and safety measures for unreinforced masonry (URM) and soft story structures. The Myrick v. Mastagni case was the first successfully tried earthquake jury trial against building owners of a URM, that killed or injured occupants during an earthquake. The Myrick case, affirmed by the California Supreme Court, established law that building owners will be held liable if they fail to timely repair or retrofit hazardous buildings that injure or kill members of the public during an earthquake.

In 2018, he addressed the structural engineers and seismologists in California at the "11th National Conference on Earthquake Engineering: Integrating Earthquake Science, Engineering and Policy," addressing the benefits of retrofitting vulnerable structures and California liability for failing to perform retrofits on hazardous structures. He has also lectured about earthquake preparedness, performance-based engineering, and the impact on California's housing stock, after "design level earthquakes." In 2016, Mr .Castro presented his paper, "Using Legal Action to Improve Earthquake Safety" at the EERI, [Earthquake Engineering Research Institute's] annual seminar.

Castro's seminars and publications urge that vulnerable structures be retrofitted as soon as possible to protect the public and the cities from earthquake losses that will leave thousands homeless. Retrofits before the next earthquake will minimize downtime for the residential and commercial housing market.

In 1997, Mr. Castro, as "Lead Counsel," won landmark earthquake death claims, for 16 victims of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, a "design level" earthquake, that caused over $40 Billion in damages. He obtained a multimillion-dollar recovery for the 16 residents who were killed during the earthquake that collapsed and killed them in their sleep. In Court, He successfully obtained Protective Orders for the "controlled demolition" of the project to obtain and preserve critical collapse evidence. That controlled demolition had been widely recognized within the construction industry as setting a new industry standard for invasive inspections and evidence preservation.

Mr. Castro continues to lecture on preparation for California's anticipated earthquakes, early retrofits and predicted economic downturns that will ensue. He has recently been recorded by KCET along with seismologists and engineers in the October 2018, television program, "The Whistle: Are We Ready for the Big One?" Nationally, in 2006, Mr. Castro was featured in National Geographic's landmark earthquake documentary, "Anatomy of an Earthquake." Again, he recommended early retrofits to avoid foreseeable earthquake deaths and challenged local, federal and state officials to expedite earthquake preparedness, infrastructure repairs and contingency plans for large scale earthquake consequences.

Mr. Castro has fast-tracked construction litigation where the court has set early trial and discovery completion dates. He successfully litigated a fast tracked, 663 unit apartment complex, in Woodland Hills California, owned by Copley Real Estate Advisors in Boston. The project was part of a REIT [owned by Harvard University, Alaska and Met Life], that had to be settled or tried in 18 months to protect the REIT from foreclosure. Under Mr. Castro's captaincy this complex multi-party case was prosecuted and settled in only 14 months for over $12,000,000. General Counsel, Peter Twining, thanked the firm:

"Attorney Joel Castro was successful in mediating a settlement in excess of $12,000,000. Naturally, we are pleased with the outcome of the matter, both as a dollar amount and our ability, through the services of Joel Castro, to avoid protracted and costly litigation. Throughout the matter his legal services were tailored to our objectives. He was very effective in a case involving more than 40 general and subcontractors. As a result of his successful handling of this case, we strongly recommend attorney Castro and his firm in any matter involving construction defects and complex construction disputes."

After the Northridge Earthquake, Mr. Castro conducted the first "welded steel moment frame" failure analysis" and invasive inspection of a medical high rise at Saint John's Medical Center. Up until the Northridge Earthquake, welded steel moment frame structures were considered the safest and most earthquake resistant construction in the nation. The project required removal, preservation and examination of fractured "beam to column connections," critical in handling earthquake forces in the buildings. These "fractured connections" were preserved as evidence and were evaluated by consulting engineers and universities. These steel frame cases involved a review of steel frame design, steel manufacture, steel fabrication and welding procedures / testing. Mr. Castro published and lectured extensively on the subject. His landmark article reporting "impaired performance" of welded steel moment frames in California earthquakes was published in 1996: "Cosmetically Repaired Welded Steel Moment Frames: A Clear Risk of Disaster" [1997: California Construction Law Reporter].

This article served as a "wake up call" for the high-rise, steel frame industry and is widely referenced by engineers, seismologists and the legal profession.

He received the first annual Justice Advocacy Award in 2012 for his successful litigation of the San Simeon Earthquake deaths. In 2015 he was voted Outstanding Construction Attorney by his peers in the Los Angeles County Bar Association. He is frequently contacted and quoted as a seismic / legal resource by National Geographic, the Los Angeles Times, and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Speaking - Educational

Mr. Castro has given numerous construction litigation seminars including:

"The Construction Litigation Explosion" seminar for the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel. In March of 1994, following the Northridge Earthquake, he was the only attorney invited to address the California State Seismic Safety Commission, where he presented his construction defect and seismic failure findings.
In January of 1995, he presented a seminar for the Los Angeles County Bar Association seminar entitled "Aftershocks: What Litigators and Real Estate Attorneys Need to Know About the Northridge Earthquake: Construction Defects, Design Defects and Due Diligence."

He is a frequent speaker on complex litigation, computer databases, document retrieval and management, e-discovery, failure analysis and seismic design. He has presented seminars on fundamentals of construction practice including M.C.L.E classes on taking depositions.

He was profiled in the August 1994 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal as the "Indiana Jones" of trial attorneys. He was featured in the April 1995 issue of National Geographic Magazine for the failure analysis he performed after the Northridge Earthquake.

He presented a Seismic Failure Seminar sponsored by Pepperdine University for the Sheriffs' Disaster Communications Service, featuring earthquake damage to soft story structures and steel frame failures following the Northridge Meadows apartment collapse during the Northridge Earthquake.

Mr. Castro was a featured speaker at West Coast Casualty's "Third Annual Construction Defect Seminar" addressing the "Performance of Steel Frame Buildings after the Northridge Earthquake."

Mr. Castro was a contributing editor for the renowned California Construction Law Reporter. In March of 1997, he published his landmark article entitled "Cosmetically Repaired Welded Steel Moment Frames: A Clear Risk of Disaster" in California Construction Law Reporter. This article got national recognition (Construction Litigation Reporter) and remains relevant today in California and other seismic states.

On March 13, 1997, Mr. Castro delivered the Keynote speech at the California Seismic Safety Commission's annual convention in San Diego. His speech included the inspection and repair of steel moment frame buildings in California Zone 4 Areas, and discussion of his landmark article. He recapped the progress of California construction in Zone 4 earthquake areas as well as international seismic construction in "Ring of Fire" zones.
In April, 1997, Mr. Castro presented a seminar, "How to Avoid Getting Sued on the Standard of Care and Code Compliance," to the Association of Engineering Geologists.

In September and October of 1997, Mr. Castro presented additional Steel Moment Frame seminars for professional groups and associations such as the CCIM and the Commercial Investment Real Estate Institute and BOMA.

In April of 1998, the Los Angeles Daily Journal published Mr. Castro's article " On Shaky Ground," which evaluated steel frame litigation and whether the statute of limitations had run.

In May of 1998, Mr. Castro conducted a seminar and published a Steel Moment Frame paper for the annual American Trial Lawyers Association convention held in Washington D.C. That year he was the keynote speaker on welded steel frame defects, damages and litigation for the Trial Lawyers Association.

Mr. Castro is a regular speaker at local schools, the construction / insurance industry and legal community.

Design - Implementation of Networked Database

Electronically Stored Information [ESI]: the Castro firm has pioneered electronic tracking and management of massive numbers of construction documents that plagues typical large scale construction projects. Without computerized document database tracking and management, none of the large construction projects could have been tried or settled by the firm because the cases would have quickly become unmanageable. Recently, publishers have codified critical electronic management and production of construction documents [Electronic Discovery and Records Management Guide, West Publishing]. The Castro firm designs and creates sophisticated, networked, database tracking to electronically log and summarize millions of documents for discovery and trial. The office continues to use its frequently upgraded, state of the art databases for electronic tracking and analysis of all construction cases including e-mails, attachments, hand-written notes, and project photographs.

Media Coverage

Castro & Associates is highly regarded in the field of construction law and design / defect litigation. Joel Castro has been featured in a number of mainstream media construction articles. These articles have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Los Angeles Daily Journal, the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Diego Union, to name a few. Articles available upon request.

Areas of Practice

  • Defective design/construction cases
  • Construction injury/death cases
  • Landslides, soils, slope failures
  • Earthquake, structural damage cases
  • Construction insurance cases
  • Water intrusion, mold cases
  • Failure analysis
  • Welded steel moment frame cases
  • Contract disputes
  • Concrete, foundation defects
  • Framing, windows, doors defects
  • Roofs, balconies, deck defects
  • HVAC, mechanical defects
  • Plumbing, electrical defects
  • Stucco, plaster, drywall defects
  • Steel Frame High Rise
  • Soils
  • Condominium, townhouse cases
  • Apartment, commercial cases
  • Single family residence, estate cases
  • High rise building cases
  • Restaurant/Hotel cases
  • Industrial/Manufacturing cases
  • Construction Insurance cases
  • Schools, hospitals, non profit cases
  • Green structures, LEED certification
  • Parks, recreational, playing field cases

Litigation Percentage

  • 90% of Practice Devoted to Litigation

Bar Admissions

  • California, 1976

Education

  • University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, Los Angeles, California - 1976
  • University of California, Los Angeles - 1972
    • Major: Political Science

Published Works

  • Aas v. Hicks: The Battle Begins Published in 2002 CEB
  • Arbitration in Wonderland - Reticence of the Courts Encourages Gaming the System, Published in 2007 with the Construction Law Journal and Continuing Education of the Bar
  • CMO Provision for Late Manifestation of Damage, CEB 2007 Construction Defect Litigation: Hot Topics 2007
  • Cosmetically Repaired Welded Steel Moment Frames: A Clear Risk of Disaster, Contributing editor for the renowned California Construction Law Reporter and published this landmark article in March 1997
  • Evolving Liability for Design-Build Contracts: The Perfect Storm of Conflicting Interests, Published in 2009 edition of CEB and the California Construction Law Reporter
  • Has the Statute of Limitations Expired for Steel Moment Frame Structures, Published in the Daily Journal in 1998
  • Heads We Win Tails You Lose: How "Cherry Picking" SB 800 Has Created The Perfect Storm For Unconscionability Litigation, Published in the California Construction Law Reporter and CEB
  • Incorporation Doctrine: Alternative Method for Establishing Property Damage, 2005
  • "Initial Overview of California Construction Defect Law", Published in CEB 2002 Construction Hot Topics Handbook
  • "Known Dangerous Condition" As Defective Construction PER SE?, Published in 2008 edition of Continuing Education of the Bar and in the American Association of Justice
  • "Known Dangerous Condition" Liability for Soft-Story Buildings, Published in 2007 with Chicago American Trial Lawyers
  • Primer on Aas, Before the California Supreme Court, Published in Continuing Education of the Bar 2000 edition
  • Recovery for Defects Without Damages, Published in 2008 with the American Trial Lawyers Association
  • Fiduciary Duty, Design Build, Published in CEB 2010 and Construction Law Reporter
  • Shaky Ground, Published in 1998 in the Los Angeles Daily Journal which evaluated the statute of limitations in earthquake cases
  • The Calderon Act: Some Common Questions and Answers, Published in 1996 with the Los Angeles County Bar
  • Welded Steel Moment Frame Defect Litigation, Published in the national Construction Litigation Reporter
  • When Words Collide: Newly Manifested Property Damage Under Aas, vs. CMO and Statutory Discovery Cut-Offs and "Final Defect Lists", Published in CEB
  • 2011: " Case History of a Failure [San Simeon Earthquake Deaths]", (11th NAMC [North American Masonry Conference] Masonry Society Minneapolis, Mn.]
  • 2003: "Top 40 California Construction Cases", (CEB 2003 Construction Hot Topics Handbook)
  • 2003: "Top 50 California Construction Cases and SB 800", (CEB 2003 Construction Hot Topics Handbook)
  • 2004: "Top 60 California Construction Cases and SB 800", (CEB 2004 Construction Hot Topics Handbook)
  • 2005: "Top 60 California Construction Cases", (CEB 2005 Construction Hot Topics Handbook)
  • 2007: "Top 60 California Construction Cases", (CEB 2007 Construction Hot Topics Handbook)
  • 2008: "Top California Construction Cases", (CEB 2008 Construction Hot Topics Handbook)
  • 2011: "Top California Construction Cases", (CEB 2011 Construction Hot Topics Handbook)

Classes/Seminars

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science(AAAS)
  • American Association of State Geologists(AASG)
  • American Concrete Institute(ACI)
  • Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists(AEG)
  • American Geosciences Institute(AGI)
  • American Institute of Architects(AIA)
  • American Institute of Architects California Council(AIACC)
  • American Institute of Professional Geologists(AIPG)
  • American Institute of Steel Construction(AISC)
  • American Iron and Steel Institute(AISI)
  • American National Standards Institute(ANSI)
  • Advanced National Seismic System(ANSS)
  • ARUP-REDi Rating System; Resilience Based Earthquake Design
  • EERI [Earthquake Engineering Research Institute]
  • IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers]
  • Nature Publishing Group Academic Journals
  • NEHRP [National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program]
  • NISEE [National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering, U.C. Berkeley]
  • NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology]
  • NITA [National Institute of Trial advocacy]
  • PBEE [Performance Based Earthquake Engineering Methodology]
  • REDI [Resilience Based Design Initiative, Earthquakes]
  • PEER Structural Performance Database
  • PEERS [Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center]
  • TBI [Tall Building Initiative – Performance Based Design Guidelines]
  • USNI [United States Naval Institute]

Honors and Awards

  • AV Preeminent Martindale Hubble Rating: Joel Castro has achieved the “highest possible” Martindale-Hubble AV preeminent “Judicial Edition Award”. This rating signifies members of the judiciary and a large number of legal peers, rank him at the highest level of professional excellence for his legal knowledge, communication skills, and ethical standards
  • Best Lawyers – U.S. News and World Report
  • Consumer Attorneys of California
  • Forbes Magazine
  • Jake Kuredjian Service Award – for Malibu Little League litigation
  • Lawyers of Distinction – ABA- Recognizing Excellence in the Practice of Law
  • Los Angeles Green Construction
  • Los Angeles County Bar Association – Jim Acret Best Construction Attorney
  • Multi-Million Dollar Advocates
  • Myrick Justice Advocacy Award – for trial and opinion Myrick v. Mastagni
  • Robert B. Flaig Award for Outstanding Construction Lawyer
  • Super Lawyers – Thompson Reuters
  • Top Attorney, Los Angeles Magazine
  • Top Attorneys Southern California
  • Top Attorneys of North America
  • Top Rated Lawyers –Los Angeles Times
  • The National Trial Lawyers
  • US Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • American Bar Association, Trial Practice Litigation Section
  • American Bar Association, Construction Law Forum
  • American Plywood Association(APA)
  • American Steel Buildings(ASB)
  • American Society of Civil Engineers(ASCE)
  • American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers(ASHRAE)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers(ASME)
  • American Society for Testing and Materials(ASTM)
  • Applied Technology Counsel(ATC)
  • American Welding Society(AWS)
  • United States Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs(BIA)
  • Earthquake Engineering Center, Stanford(BLUME)
  • Building Owners and Managers Association International(BOMA)
  • California Geotechnical Engineers Association(CalGeo)
  • California Seismic Safety Commission, 1994 - Present
  • Construction Claims Network(CCN)
  • California Education of the Bar(CEB)
  • Civil and Geotechnical Engineers Forum
  • Construction Law Group
  • Los Angeles County Bar, "Aftershocks" Seminar, 1994 - Present
  • West Coast Casualty Seminar, "The Northridge Meadows Collapse: An Overview", 1995 - Present
  • Los Angeles County Bar Association, "Working with Calderon - Options", 1996 - Present
  • California Seismic Safety Commission, California Seismic Safety Commission's annual convention in San Diego, 1997 - Present
  • Association of Engineering Geologists, Avoiding Lawsuits on Standard of Care and Code Compliance, 1997 - Present
  • The Learning Channel, Without Warning: The Northridge Meadows Collapse, 1997 - Present
  • American Trial Lawyers Association, 1998 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 1998 - Present
  • AIG Seminar, 1999 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 1999 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 2000 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 2001 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 2002 - Present
  • California Association of Realtors, Dealing with Senate Bill 800, Disclosures and Litigation, 2003 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 2003 - Present
  • Forensic Expert Association, Construction Litigation: Co-ordinating Experts, 2004 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 2004 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 2005 - Present
  • Zurich in San Antonio, Texas, Builder's Myths Mistakes, 2006 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, When Courts Collide: Aas Physical Manifestation vs. Case Management Orders, 2007 - Present
  • American Association of Justice in Chicago, Illinois, Soft Story Buildings - Tuck Under Parking, 2007 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 2008 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 2009 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 2010 - Present
  • Continuing Education of the Bar, Construction Defects Litigation: Hot Topics, 2011 - Present
  • Construction Litigation Law Group
  • CRSI [Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute]
  • CUREE [Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering]
  • Forensic Science Litigation Network
  • GSA [Geological Society of America]
  • L.A. County Bar Association Construction Law Subsection
  • NCSEA [National Council Structural Engineers Association]
  • NFPA [National Fire Protection Association]
  • NSF [National Science Foundation]
  • PCA [Portland Cement Association]
  • SAC Joint Venture [Structural Engineers Association of California; Applied TechnologyCounsel; California Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering]
  • SAH/SCC [Society of Architectural Historians / Southern California / Chapter]
  • SCEC [Southern California Earthquake Center]
  • SEAOSC [Structural Engineers Association of Southern California]
  • SEAOC [Structural Engineers Association of California]
  • SEI [Structural Engineering Institute]
  • Trial Technology Standards Group
  • USGBC [United States Green Building Council]
  • USGS [United States Geological Survey]
  • USRS [United States Resiliency Council]

Pro Bono Activities

  • California Architectural Foundation