Brown Eyed Girl Gets a Black Eye in Opening Statements

Posted on Tuesday, 12 October 2010

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Venom Overflows Banks in Marin Flood-Damage Case

Kate Moser

The Recorder | October 12, 2010

 

SAN FRANCISCO — Plaintiff lawyer Raymond Bourhis today found himself — and his occupation — cast as Exhibit A in why his daughter, Danielle, and other clients don't deserve to be awarded damages in a dispute over a flooded clothing boutique in Marin County.

 

Bourhis' adversary told the jury he would put Bourhis on the stand to talk about his expertise in flood litigation, as well as his financial interest in the flooded retail business managed by Danielle Bourhis, including a flagship store called Brown Eyed Girl.

 

"Who is Brown Eyed Girl?" said Edward Hugo during his opening as he crossed in front of jurors to stand behind Bourhis. "Here she is."

 

Bourhis says landlords Kate and John Lord didn't mitigate flood risks, and when a bad flood ruined the budding business, they wouldn't let the renters out of their lease.

Hugo says his clients are owed back rent, damages and attorneys' fees.

 

Hugo suggested Bourhis, of Bourhis & Mann in San Francisco, knew the risks. "He's trained as a lawyer. He's a plaintiff attorney. He's a plaintiff attorney who specializes in flood litigation."

 

Bourhis objected then, as well as five other times during the course of Hugo's opening.

 

Still, Hugo, of San Francisco's HUGO PARKER, managed to squeeze in the fact that there are two other plaintiff lawyers in the extended Bourhis family.

 

At several points, Marin County Superior Court Judge James Ritchie told Bourhis and Hugo not to talk directly to each other. One exchange came when Bourhis objected to several of the visuals Hugo planned to use in his opening, including a list of recorded rainfall levels.

 

"Are you guys serious?" Hugo shot back. "This is like a carnival."

 

"Would you please address the court and see if you can learn that for once?" Bourhis retorted.

 

Over objections from Bourhis, Hugo then held up for the jury a long list of defendants Bourhis has named in this and a larger suit over the flood damage. The bit of theater took a couple of minutes, as Hugo, with an amused grin, crouched down to read the names of defendants at the bottom of the long list, which included Marin County and assorted municipalities and water and sewage districts.

 

During his own opening statement, Bourhis depicted his daughter as a visionary who, along with business partners, built up a thriving retail business, including the San Francisco boutique Brown Eyed Girl that drew famous customers like Don Johnson and Danielle Steele. When the business expanded to Marin County, no one informed the owners that their new location was in a floodplain, Bourhis told the jury. Months after they opened, floodwaters destroyed their inventory and wiped out their whole business. Bourhis chalked up $700,000 in damages.

 

"This case is not about blaming a landlord for an act of God," Bourhis said during an opening that took a little less than an hour. "It's about what the landlords knew before renting a building to retailers. They knew that it was flooding on an average of every four years."

The case is Bourhis v. Lord , 060796.


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