PAJARO, Calif. – A 64-page lawsuit has been filed by residents of Pajaro, including homeowners, renters, business owners, and even children, against Monterey and Santa Cruz counties and other entities. The plaintiffs, numbering around 800, claim that the failure of the levee has caused them both physical and emotional damage. Antonio Hueso, a Pajaro resident, referred to Pajaro as “the tail of the devil” due to the community’s vulnerability to the disaster.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of negligence, breach of duty, and creating a nuisance. It alleges that the flooding was a direct consequence of the defendants’ failure to responsibly operate public improvements to the levee as required by law. For some residents, filing this lawsuit represents their last resort in seeking assistance. Jerry Castro, a Pajaro resident, expressed his frustration by stating, “What else can we do? If it wasn’t for that lawsuit, who’s going to help us? I couldn’t get FEMA or nothing.”
In support of their argument, the plaintiffs provide historical background dating back to the early 1900s, highlighting the vulnerability of the roughly 3,000 population, which consists mainly of low-income farmworkers. Castro, who personally experienced the devastating floods in ’95 and the most recent one, believes that the consequences of the destruction will persist for generations. However, not all residents have chosen to pursue legal action. Alejandra Vargas believes that the counties have done their best and that further legal action is unnecessary. Vargas stated, “I didn’t sue. I didn’t think it was necessary because I believe that everything is coming together little by little, but for the people that did, I respect it. It’s their decision.”
Despite some residents feeling hopeful or content with the counties’ response, others continue to harbor fears of similar incidents occurring in the future. Castro warned, “If we have another rain like this, like we did last year, we’re gonna be right back where we started.” This lawsuit is not the first time the community has sought legal action, as both counties were found liable for similar claims in ’95. KSBW Action News 8 reached out to Monterey and Santa Cruz counties for comment, but both declined due to the pending litigation.
In conclusion, Pajaro residents have filed a 64-page lawsuit against Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, among others, asserting that the failure of the levee has caused them physical and emotional harm. Despite some residents opting not to sue, many feel that taking this legal step represents their only hope for assistance. The vulnerability of the low-income farmworker community is a key point of the argument, with historical background further cementing their claims. The lawsuit is pending, and the potential impact on the community remains uncertain.