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Santa Margarita Ranch LLC loses lawsuit 

A couple in Santa Margarita prevailed in court over the Santa Margarita Ranch, LLC.

Ranch owners Doug Filipponi, Karl Whittstrom, and Rob Rossi lost a lawsuit they filed in mid 2007 against Michael and Miranda Joseph. The lawsuit claimed the Josephs had trespassed on ranch property and asked the court to deny the Josephs and their family from using a small dirt road that crosses over the ranch to the Josephs’ cabin.

But the Josephs’ lawyer Roy Ogden, argued the lawsuit wasn’t only about a road, but was a tactic to muzzle the couple from speaking against the Santa Margarita Ranch housing project. Ogden said the timing of the lawsuit was “suspect and seemed to coincide with things my client was doing in terms of writing letters to the county and making the ranch unhappy.”

New Times reported last August that ranch owners filed the lawsuit shortly after Miranda Joseph began publicly criticizing the controversial housing project.

“We proved to the jury that we didn’t trespass,” Ogden said of his clients. “We’re good neighbors.”

The lawsuit went to a jury trial, which concluded on April 22. Jurors found that the Josephs had not trespassed on the ranch and the ranch owners could not relocate the Josephs’ historic access, according to Superior Court Judge Martin Tangeman’s proposed judgment. (The Josephs had used the road since the 1960s to reach their family cabin.) The jury also voted against a Santa Margarita Ranch request for damages and instead recommended that the ranch owners pay the Josephs $5,000 for a “breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

Santa Margarita Ranch attorney Charles Daugherty declined to comment,“because there’s a settlement negotiation going on right now.”

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