The Independent has learned that Sunyl Chung, the father of Haeyoon Miller, the 29-year-old Tustin women killed when a tree fell on her car in Newport Beach, has retained a Beverly Hills law firm in anticipation of filing a claim for monetary damages against the city, and may be prepping a potential wrongful death lawsuit.
The Independent spoke exclusively with the law Office of Richard D. Hoffman last week and it confirmed that it had been retained in the case.
“Yes, we have been retained in this matter” Daniel Boasberg, an attorney at the firm confirmed to the Independent. “We are just beginning our work on the case.”
Boasberg confirmed to the Independent that a claim made directly to the city for damages in the case must be “initiated within 180 days as dictated by law” and that once the law firm does so “the clock starts ticking” on a potential civil suit. If the claim is rejected by the city and no agreement or settlement can be worked out between the parties, Miller’s family then has the right to sue the city in court.
The city had steadfastly refused to release documents and reports related to the case, until Independent investigative reporter Eric Longabardi requested the documents and other materials from the City under the California Public Records Act. The City on Monday released a number of records in direct response to the Independent’s request.
Other media organizations, The Daily Pilot and the Orange County Register then were provided access to the documents – after they were released to the Independent and reporter Longabardi last Friday.
Reports of decay in the tree that killed Miller and other trees along Irvine Avenue was first reported by the Newport Beach Independent. A video obtained by the Independent and photographs taken after Miller’s death but before the Irvine Avenue trees were removed by the city were a crucial element of the reporting on this story,
Expert arborist George Applegate, who was first contacted and interviewed by the Independent, said as the story was going to print that he had been contacted by lawyers working on behalf of Miller’s family. According to Applegate, he has yet to be retained.
If WCA was incentivized to prune larger trees vs. smaller trees, i.e., paid more for bigger trees, then the company’s in-house arborist’s opinions may be less reliable compared with that of an arborist not financially dependent on the company.