LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – Alleging that conditions at a desert trailer park commonly called “Duroville” pose an imminent threat to the health and safety of several thousand residents, the United States this afternoon filed a lawsuit against the operator of the facility in an effort to have him make significant improvements or, in the alternative, to have the trailer park shut down.
The action filed today in United States District Court in Los Angeles against Harvey Duro Sr. and his company, Desert Mobilehome Park, Inc., alleges that Duro is operating without a permit, that the trailer park is dangerous and that Duro failed to make improvements he promised to make in 2004.
Duro, a member of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian tribe and a resident of Thermal, operates the mobile home park, which consists of 300 to 400 trailers inhabited by between 2,000 and 6,000 persons, predominantly migrant farm workers and their children. The facility also includes businesses such as a laundromat, several used car sales lots, a restaurant, a liquor store, a beauty shop, and a junkyard. The Trailer Park is adjacent to a trash dump which occasionally
erupts into fire and spews smoke and ash onto the Trailer Park.
The lawsuit alleges that the trailer park operation is illegal under federal law because Duro does not have a permit to operate a business from the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
The lawsuit also alleges that Duroville is in violation of the law because the facility constitutes a public nuisance and an imminent danger to health and to the environment. The risks to human health at the trailer park include:
dangerously defective construction, including defective wiring, lack of fire service, inadequate fire access lanes, and hazardous power distribution systems;
inadequate disposal of sewage, some of which is leaking adjacent to trailers and which is attracting vermin and clouds of flies; and
unhealthful drinking water distribution, which puts residents at risk of diseases such as cholera.
On March 6, 2003 the BIA issued a cease and desist order to Duro, which required him to immediately stop operating the trailer park and associated businesses, and to return the property to its original condition. Duro did not stop operating the facility, even though he was sued later in 2003 by the government. That first lawsuit led to a stipulation in 2004 in which Duro agreed to make improvements to bring the facility into compliance with government codes and regulations. That case was subsequently transferred to a federal judge in Los Angeles who dismissed the case in 2006. Two weeks ago, that judge refused to reopen the case and to hear a contempt motion filed by the government against Duro.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan B. Klinck
Assistant United States Attorney Monica L. Miller