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 480,000 construction documents were 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 reporters 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 all carriers after they paid defense firms $40,000,000 in defense costs. Mr. Castro was instrumental in achieving that global settlement.

Design - Implementation of Networked Database

Without a computerized document database the Monterey Hills case would have quickly become unmanageable. Mr. Castro designed and created a sophisticated, networked, document database to log and summarize the 480,000 documents for discovery and trial. This system has been refined and used in litigation to quickly and meaningfully analyze legal information. The computer database has been designed to perform legal analytical tasks. It is operated not through computer programming language, but through English language commands. The office continues to use this frequently upgraded, state of the art database for all construction cases which now includes had-written notes and project photographs.

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 complex multi-party cases setting new standards for forensic investigations following the collapse of the Northridge Meadows complex during the Northridge Earthquake and 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 $5,5000,000 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. He has litigated a luxury twenty story luxury high rise in Westwood against M.J. Brock and Gruen that settled for several million dollars.

Mr. Castro defended the City of Los Angeles for delay and engineering claims brought against the Port of Los Angeles. That case required tracking of several hundred thousand documents. He 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 for his client before trial.

In 1993, Mr. Castro litigated 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 that were built atop the slab. One week after being assigned out for trial the case settled for $6,200,000. Mr. Castro has also performed an advanced structural analysis for a community campus and administrative center in Canoga Park.

Current Practice

The recent January 2018, $55 million settlement was highly complex multi-party litigation with 52 subcontractors and design professionals.  Over 5 million documents were produced and analyzed for the 390 days of depositions. It involved a Metro Rail Transit Oriented Development built as the flagship for the subway stops in the City.  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.

Among the firm’s proudest accomplishments was the Myrick v Mastagni death cases arising from the San Simeon Earthquake with published results by the California Court of Appeals that enabled the construction industry to adopt new safety measures for unreinforced masonry (URM) and soft story structures.  Myrick v. Mastagni case was the first successful earthquake jury trial against building owners of a URMs, killed or injured in an earthquake. The Myrick v. Mastagni case was reported nationally, affirmed by the California Supreme Court, and held that building owners will be held liable if they fail to repair hazardous buildings that injure or kill members of the public during an earthquake.

In 2016, Mr .Castro presented his paper at the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s seminar “Using Legal Action to Improve Earthquake Safety.” He has also lectured about earthquake preparedness, performance-based engineering, and housing stock impact from damaged earthquake buildings. Retrofitting these projects now will protect the public from catastrophic earthquake losses and will minimize downtime for the housing market. In addition, Mr. Castro, as “Lead Counsel,” won landmark legal cases for victims of some of California’s most notorious earthquake disasters, including multimillion-dollar recoveries for residents killed during the collapse of Northridge Meadows apartments during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

Mr. Castro fast-tracked litigation of a 663 unit apartment complex in Woodland Hills owned by Copley Real Estate Advisors in Boston.  The project was part of an REIT that had to be settled or tried in 18 months.  Under Mr. Castro’s captaincy this complex multi-party case was prosecuted and settled in 14 months for over $12,000,000.
During his “Lead Counsel” prosecution of the Northridge Meadows collapse cases, killing 16 tenants, he successfully obtained court orders for “controlled demolition” of that project to preserve evidence of the collapse. That controlled demolition had been widely recognized as setting a new industry standard for invasive inspections and photo - documentation.

Mr. Castro conducted the first “steel moment frame” failure analysis and invasive inspection of a medical high rise at Saint John's Medical Center. The project required removal, preservation and examination of fractured “connections” of moment frame beam to column locations so they could be studied in the lab. The structure had to be shored so these evidence extractions could occur. These cases involve review of steel design, steel manufacture, steel fabrication and welding procedures.  Mr. Castro has written and lectured extensively on the subject.

He received the first annual Justice Advocacy Award in 2012 for his 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 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 Earthquake and the Northridge Meadows apartment collapse.

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.

In April, 1997, Mr. Castro presented a lecture entitled, "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.
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 published a Steel Moment Frame syllabus 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 and the construction industry and legal community.

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

  • 50% 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

  • "Cosmetically Repaired Welded Steel Moment Frames: A Clear Risk of Disaster" in California Construction Law Reporter, Editor

Classes/Seminars

  • "The Construction Litigation Explosion" seminar for the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel, 1994
  • "Aftershocks: What Litigators and Real Estate Attorneys Need to Know About the Northridge Earthquake: Construction Defects, Design Defects and Due Diligence", Los Angeles County Bar Association, 1995
  • "Performance of Steel Frame Buildings after the Northridge Earthquake", West Coast Casualty, 1995
  • Implementing California Civil Code Section 1375 "Working with Calderon - Options", Panelist, 1996
  • "How to Avoid Getting Sued on the Standard of Care and Code Compliance", Association of Engineering Geologists, 1997