Riley | Ersoff LLP: Slumlord Showdown – Fighting for Decent Housing
Housing is a fundamental element of the American dream. However, for many individuals and families, this dream is tarnished by landlords who refuse to provide decent living conditions. Riley | Ersoff LLP, a legal powerhouse committed to justice, has taken up the fight for those living in unhealthy and often deplorable conditions, tirelessly advocating for the rights of tenants against uncooperative landlords.
As unimaginable as it may be, even in the most progressive communities a dark reality persists with men, women and children forced to endure decrepit buildings, pests infestations, moldy walls, and inadequate utilities due to negligent landlords. As unpleasant as these environments are, what’s worse are the ramifications of exposure to toxins that can lead to a lifetime of illness and disabilities. Imagine the pain of a parent who, with no other options, must watch helplessly as their precious child suffers painful symptoms of lead or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Fortunately, there is a team of caring, committed professionals ready to take on those allowing such uninhabitable conditions and ensure these families receive the financial compensation to seek needed medical care and compensation for their pain and suffering.
I loved the defense work. But for several years, I knew deep down that I was fighting the wrong fight.”
I jumped at the chance. It was the best decision I ever made.”
Grant Riley and Victoria Ersoff, both accomplished lawyers with successful careers in their own right, found themselves on a serendipitous collision course toward a shared mission. Their individual journeys, expertise and passions converged, leading to a powerful partnership dedicated to addressing these pressing issues.
A sophisticated, proactive and aggressive attorney with 35 years of in-the-trenches experience litigating complex, big-money disputes, Riley was a partner at three of the most prestigious firms in Los Angeles litigating and resolving multimillion-dollar disputes on behalf of public companies, Hollywood studios, national banks and real estate developers. His reputation was impeccable and success undeniable when he reached a moment of self-reflection that altered his legal course.
“I took a break for a couple of months after finishing a grueling case and decided that I was no longer interested in working for giant corporations by the hour,” he says. “I thought about what I wanted to do and having defended some habitability (slum housing) cases, I decided to become a plaintiffs’ attorney prosecuting these cases on behalf of innocent tenants. That expanded to lead poisoning, then carbon monoxide poisoning and now Legionnaires’ disease cases. And, after joining forces with my amazing partner, I haven’t looked back. This work is extremely rewarding.”
The other half of this dynamic duo is Victoria Ersoff, a litigation attorney with over 28 years of experience on both sides of the courtroom. Ersoff’s proactive, innovative and aggressive approach to the practice of law has yielded an unbroken string of jury verdicts for her clients. She is nationally recognized for her expertise in all facets of toxic tort litigation and mass bacterial outbreaks, and, after handling of over 1,000 Legionnaires’ disease claims nationwide, she has earned the reputation as the go-to Legionnaires’ disease attorney.
Ironically, the two talented attorneys became acquainted from across the courtroom aisle. Despite being on opposite sides of various cases, they couldn’t deny mutual admiration and respect for one another.
“I loved the defense work. But for several years, I knew deep down that I was fighting the wrong fight,” Ersoff says. “I had several lead poisoning cases against my now partner Grant Riley, whom I consider the best of the best. I always felt that every time we were entrenched in a battle, and there were a lot of battles, I upped my game and improved my skills as a lawyer. When he suggested one day that I leave the defense side and become his partner, I jumped at the chance. It was the best decision I ever made.”
With the birth of Riley | Ersoff, the partners made it their mission to champion the rights of individuals and families living in substandard conditions. Their team of dedicated attorneys has offered a ray of hope for countless tenants whose pleas for better living conditions have fallen on deaf ears.
Having traveled different legal paths, Riley and Ersoff’s unique talents and areas of expertise complement one another creating the ideal partnership. Both understand the legal intricacies involved in landlord-tenant disputes and work diligently to ensure their clients’ voices are heard. Armed with knowledge, experience and a deep commitment to justice, they go to great lengths to hold uncooperative landlords accountable for their actions.
As polished and sophisticated as each of these attorneys are, neither is immune to the emotions that are invariably stirred with each case. The legal battles they take on go beyond seeking financial compensation. Their primary goal is to ensure that their clients, and by extension other tenants, are not just compensated for their suffering but also provided with safe and decent housing. They work tirelessly to secure repairs, remediation of hazardous conditions, and, when necessary, relocation for those in immediate danger.
Unlike their previous battles representing large corporations and faceless entities, the rewards for their labors in this realm are immense and very personal.
“On one of the first cases I handled after joining the firm, I represented a family,” says Ersoff. “The parents had second grade educations and spoke no English. The husband worked a graveyard shift making donuts while the wife stayed home taking care of their three young children. Their rental home was infested with rats and was full of deteriorated lead-based paint. The landlord ignored their repeated requests for repairs. When the husband wasn’t working, he did the best he could to make the home safe for his family. The mom was exhausted because the kids were really hyperactive, and they weren’t meeting their milestones. When she took them to the doctor for a checkup, a blood test confirmed that all three of them were lead poisoned. When the husband contacted the landlord to give him the news, the landlord stated that the family was trouble, and they needed to move out.
“They contacted us, we filed suit, and ultimately settled the case for $9 million,” she adds. “The family was able to buy a home and get the kids the help they need. This is why we do what we do.”
Not surprisingly, her partner expresses similar experiences. One example he shares involved a family who had immigrated from West Africa.
“The father was highly educated, but could barely find work as a taxi driver in the U.S.,” Riley says. “Their daughter was autistic. The family lived in an apartment building owned by a very well-known church in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, they were horrible property managers, and allowed this family to live in a building covered in deteriorated lead-based paint. Lead is extremely dangerous to young children and causes brain damage, behavior deficits and long-term physiological harm. We were able to get this family $10 million. It changed their lives and allowed them to buy a house and provide their daughter with the best possible care. That made everything worthwhile. I still talk to the family and, thank God, the therapy the daughter has received has made all the difference.
“Helping people, changing their lives, changing their children’s lives that’s what makes this work so rewarding,” he adds. “I can’t tell you how many mothers have broken down in my arms crying that I’ve given them a future that they never would have had but for the efforts of our team. That is what I love most about this job.”
Helping people, changing their lives, changing their children’s lives that’s what makes this work so rewarding.”
Beyond the Courtroom
Riley and Ersoff are quite close, frequently socializing with their spouses outside of work.
“I just got married (again) to the most incredible woman in the world,” says Riley. “My sons are 33 and 36 and very happy, successful men. My oldest son has two daughters who are the center of my universe.”
“I’ve been married to my husband and best friend for 30 years,” says Ersoff. “We met in law school. We have two amazing kids. My son is studying for his MBA at Pepperdine, and my daughter is in her second year of law school at Brooklyn Law in New York. We have three 85–90-pound rescue dogs and would adopt 10 more if we could!”
The collaborative efforts of Riley, Ersoff and the rest of their team has led to significant changes in landlord practices, the closure of unsafe slum properties, and increased the awareness of the dire living conditions many face. This partnership has not only transformed the lives of countless individuals living in slum housing but also become a model for effective advocacy and legal activism in addressing pressing societal problems.
At a Glance
RILEY | ERSOFF LLP
8383 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 228
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Victoria L. Ersoff
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