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LA Jury Awards 4 Brothers Billions In A Case That is The Mother Of All Real Estate Disputes

In Business
April 06, 2024

The old saying that “no one fights like family” is perfectly exemplified by a Los Angeles court case involving several members of the same family feuding over a multibillion-dollar real estate empire.

The case, which took decades to play out, featured more dramatic plot twists than a Hollywood movie before an L.A. jury finally awarded the plaintiffs (four brothers) billions of dollars in damages by ruling against the defendant (who was the plaintiffs’ brother).

A Scion Of The Diamond Trade Becomes A Real Estate Mogul

It all started when Shashikant “Shashi” Jogani, who was born into a family of diamond traders, moved to Los Angeles in 1969 and began investing in real estate. By 1994, Jogani’s portfolio consisted of thousands of units and had an estimated value of $375 million. It was all going splendidly until the Northridge Earthquake damaged many of his properties and he had 16 tenants in one building die when a floor collapsed beneath them.

A Cash Infusion And An Oral Agreement Leads To An Ill-fated Family Partnership

The cost of the lawsuits and repairing the damage to his properties hit Jogani while a major recession was plaguing the real estate market. This combination of bad circumstances left Jogani’s empire in dire straits, and he reached out to his brother Haresh Jogani for assistance. The brothers reached a verbal agreement that saw Haresh Jogani inject cash into the business and buy 2,600 of Shashi Jogani’s units.

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This is where the plot thickens. According to Haresh Jogani, the deal called for Haresh and three of his brothers to become 50% partners with Shashi Jogani once their original investment plus 12% was recuperated. Shashi Jogani acted as adviser and Haresh Jogani bankrolled the acquisitions. The portfolio continued to grow until it consisted of 17,000 units. Then things got complicated.

The Mother Of All Lawsuits And A Monster Jury Award

In 2001, Shashi Jogani was “fired” from the partnership after he allegedly tried to transfer ownership of an asset into his name without Haresh Jogani’s approval. This led to Shashi Jogani suing Haresh for breaking their partnership up by firing him. Over the next 20 years, the case was characterized by a dizzying array of recanted statements, shifting alliances, and legal maneuvering.

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There were multiple case dismissals resulting from various legal wrangling among the plaintiffs and even a verdict cast aside for alleged juror misconduct. Finally, in 2024 the case reached a verdict, and a jury awarded Shashi Jogani and his co-plaintiffs (who were the original brothers Haresh Jogani included in the verbal agreement) $2.5 billion in monetary damages and $4.5 billion worth of equity in the portfolio.

Shashi Jogani and his co-plaintiffs in the case are happy with the verdict. Shashi Jogani was the biggest winner financially, having been awarded the 50% stake in the business that the verbal agreement originally called for, plus $1.8 billion in damages. The remaining amount was split between the other brothers, who received damage awards ranging from $299 million to $570 million and various equity shares based on the jury’s calculations.

After A Multibillion-Dollar Jury Award, The Case Still Isn’t Over

The case isn’t over. As the losing defendant, Haresh Jogani has appealed the verdict and filed a motion against the trial judge for racial animus. The punitive damage awards have yet to be made, and it’s almost a guarantee they will be in the hundreds of millions or possibly even billions of dollars.

The Lesson Every Real Estate Investor Can Learn From This Case

The real tragedy here is that the Jogani family could have avoided these decades of litigation and millions of dollars in legal fees by taking just a few hours to draw up an actual contract when Haresh Jogani joined the business. There is a lesson to be learned here for all house hackers, real estate investment partnerships and syndication dealers.

Even if it goes bad, it’s always going to end more cleanly with a contract than without one. Take the time to hire lawyers and structure your partnership in such a way that everyone understands what’s expected of them and how things will go in case one partner needs to make an orderly exit. That way, you can all make a clean break and not wind up wasting years of your time and way too much of your money on lawyers, depositions and court cases.

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This article LA Jury Awards 4 Brothers Billions In A Case That is The Mother Of All Real Estate Disputes originally appeared on Benzinga.com

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