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Attorney: Landslide Caused by Leaking Water

A landslide that damaged dozens of La Jolla homes was caused by water leaking into the soil, a homeowners' attorney said today, but a lawyer representing the city of San Diego said shifting earth was to blame.

Sixty-five homeowners in Mount Soledad filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming three water leaks contributed to the massive landslide along Soledad Mountain Road on Oct. 3, 2007.

Three houses had to be demolished, and Mount Soledad Road was closed for a year after the slide.

"The water content (in the soil) was high,'' plaintiffs' lead attorney Craig McClellan said outside court after delivering his opening statement in the non-jury case.

McClellan said the house of one affected homeowner was flooded when the landslide came crashing down toward his residence.

But attorney Douglas M. Butz, representing the city, told Judge Ronald Styn that the landslide was dry and there was no evidence of water seepage while the event was taking place.

The leaks in question were repaired quickly in the summer of 2007, Butz said.

"There wasn't enough water to trigger this landslide,'' the attorney said in his opening statement.

Butz said the slide was the result of long-term "creeping'' of the land and the softening of a rupture/slide that was repaired in 1967.

If Styn finds the city liable after a three-week trial, a damages phase would follow in November to determine what damages should be awarded to each homeowner.

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