Joel Castro earned his undergraduate degree from University of California, Los Angeles in Political Science in 1972 and graduated from UCLA Law School in 1976. He spent a short time with the California Attorney General, Criminal Appellate Division, and started private practice in 1977.
In 1977 he 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 180,000 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 $10,000,000 which was increased to over $13,500,000 when the judge awarded fees, costs and interest. As a result of this favorable verdict and judgment, all Monterey Hills owners were able to settle their claims for $65,000,000. The $65,000,000 represented all remaining coverage for all carriers after they paid the 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 180,000 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.
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.
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, including punitive damages against the developer. He has litigated a 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 the 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 for a minimal sum 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.
Mr. Castro recently completed litigation of a 663 unit apartment complex in Woodland Hills that settled for over $12,000,000. This complex case was mediated through case management and settled in only fourteen months.
Mr. Castro also prosecuted the Northridge Meadows apartment collapse where 16 tenants were killed and many others were injured. He was named "lead counsel" to try all the consolidated lawsuits. He obtained a court order for a controlled demolition of that project to gather evidence of the collapse. That controlled demolition had been widely recognized as setting a new industry standard for invasive inspections and photo - documentation. After many months of litigation, the case settled.
Mr. Castro conducted the first failure analysis and invasive inspection of a failed steel moment frame high rise at Saint John's Medical Center. He is currently working on steel frame structures which failed after the Northridge Earthquake. These cases involve review of steel design, steel manufacture, steel fabrication and welding procedures. He has written and lectured extensively on the subject.
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."
In the aftermath of the Northridge Earthquake, he has been frequently contacted by the Los Angeles Times, the National Science Foundation and National Geographic Magazine, as a leading source of legal information related to seismic safety.
He is a frequent speaker on complex litigation, computer databases, document retrieval and management, failure analysis and seismic design. He publishes a construction and database management newsletter. 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.
In the fall of 1995 he presented a Seismic Failure Seminar sponsored by Pepperdine University and the Sheriffs' Disaster Communications Service, featuring steel frame failures following the Northridge Earthquake and the Northridge Meadows apartment collapse.
In October of 1995, 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."
In October of 1996, Mr. Castro was a panelist for the L. A. County Bar regarding Implementing California Civil Code Section 1375 "Working with Calderon - Options."
Mr. Castro is 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.
Mr. Castro also published his landmark steel moment frame article in the national construction law publication, the Construction Litigation Reporter.
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 " 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 to be held in Washington D.C., in July, 1998. Mr. Castro presented the steel frame litigation seminar on July 12, 1998.
Mr. Castro submitted a follow up steel frame article to California Construction Law Reporter which was published in the summer of 1998.
Mr. Castro is a regular speaker at local schools and to the construction and legal community.