LA jury adds $3B in punitive damages in Jogani family suit

Haresh Jogani’s payout could add up to $10B

Jury Adds $3B to Legal Verdict Dividing Jogani Family’s Billion-Dollar Portfolio
Haresh Jogani (LinkedIn, Getty)

A two-decade-long court battle over a vast Los Angeles real estate fortune within the Jogani family ended this week with a payout verdict valued at $10 billion.

An L.A. jury added $3 billion in punitive damages to a multi-billion dollar award in the legal bloodbath between five brothers from India, who’d amassed diamonds and 17,000 apartments in the San Fernando Valley, Bloomberg and reported.

The trial, stemming from a 2003 lawsuit, was based on claims that Haresh Jogani had breached a longstanding oral agreement and bilked his brothers out of their share in the wealth. The lawsuit has cycled through 18 appeals, armies of lawyers and five L.A. Superior Court judges.

On Thursday, jurors ordered Haresh Jogani to pay his brother Shashikant $1.5 billion, on top of $1.8 billion awarded last week, according to representatives of the plaintiffs. 

Haresh Jogani was also ordered to pay two other brothers, Rajesh and Chetan, a combined $1.5 billion in punitive damages, after an initial award of $759 million.

Together with last week’s initial award of $2.6 billion, the verdict appears to be among the largest of the decade, according to Bloomberg.

The jury also ordered Haresh last week to turn over 76 percent of the portfolio of 17,000 apartments, including a portion to another brother, Shailesh. 

Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimated the real estate awarded to their clients is worth $4.5 billion — which would bring the total sum of the verdict to $10 billion.

“The family is elated,” attorney Peter Ross, who represents Chetan and Rajesh Jogani, said in a statement. “They feel the jurors really saw them and heard their stories.”

Attorneys for Haresh Jogani, however, said the battle isn’t over.

“The final chapter is far from written,” Rick Richmond, an attorney for Haresh Jogani, said in a statement. “In addition to eventual appellate review, there are several pending and anticipated trial and post-trial motions that may dramatically alter this verdict.” 

John Lee, another attorney representing Haresh, told the judge didn’t allow his client to provide an explanation when he testified earlier this week that his vast real estate empire was worth “zero to negative.” 

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The Jogani family, natives of Gujarat, India, built a fortune in the global diamond trade, setting up offices in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North America. 

In 1969, a 22-year-old Shashikant “Shashi” Jogani moved to Los Angeles, where he set up a solo firm in the gem business and began to build a property portfolio, according to a complaint he filed in 2003. 

He bought his first apartment property in 1979 for $500,000. By 1994, he owned more than 24 properties across Van Nuys, North Hollywood, San Fernando, Sylmar, Northridge and Canoga Park, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. 

Then came the savings and loan crisis, a nationwide recession and the 1993 Northridge earthquake — Shashikant ended up in financial trouble and needed money. 

“Like other real property owners, (the) plaintiff was forced to address actual and potential defaults and foreclosures,” Shashikant said in his complaint against his brother, Haresh Jogani. 

In 1995, Shashikant and Haresh came to an oral agreement — Haresh and their three other brothers would enter into a joint venture with Shashikant to help support the properties, now controlled by companies based in Los Angeles, Nevada and the British Virgin Islands.

Exactly how much each brother gets depends partly on swings in the real estate market. Apartment prices have fallen from their 2022 peak after higher interest rates raised borrowing costs and cut into property values, according to Bloomberg.

It also depends whether the brothers can collect. 

Judge Susan Bryant-Deason has ordered Haresh Jogani to lock down his assets, according to Steve Friedman, an attorney for Shashikant Jogani, but Haresh didn’t appear in court Thursday, a departure from his presence during most of the five-month trial.

“We were all wondering: Where was Haresh Jogani?” Friedman said.

When asked by the judge if his client was still in the country, Richmond, his attorney, said yes, Friedman said.

— Dana Bartholomew

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