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'A ticking time bomb' | Family of Encinitas bluff collapse victims files lawsuit

The family is asking for an unspecified amount of monetary damages.

ENCINITAS, Calif. — Pat Davis was sitting right next to his wife, Julie, when the bluff at Grandview Beach in Encinitas crashed down without warning last year. The force of the impact killed Julie, their daughter Annie, and Julie's sister, Elizabeth. It happened Aug. 2, 2019. 

Since then, grieving family members have focused their efforts on changes at the beach, hoping for more warning signs, education from lifeguards and improvements to the bluffs. But a year later, with little changes, they're now taking their fight to court. 

“We really hope that some changes can take place here before another family is injured like mine,” Davis said.

The family had gathered that day to celebrate Elizabeth beating breast cancer for a second time. 

“She was a fighter,” said her husband, Daniel Cox. “I know if she was here, she would want to make sure that we carry on that fight so no other families go through this.”

Attorneys said the family did everything right that day. 

“They went to the beach not knowing of any hidden dangers and they asked the lifeguard where to set up and like any responsible family, they followed the instructions of the lifeguard,” said Deborah Chang. 

She also believed this tragedy was preventable because documents show the city and state have been well aware of the problems here for decades. 

“It was like a ticking time bomb," said Chang. "It wasn't a question of if something was going to happen, but when and that time bomb is still ticking today.”

That's what has family members so upset. They say little to nothing has been done to warn beachgoers of the danger. Wednesday, while News 8 was at the beach, we saw multiple people sitting under the bluffs, including bluffs covered with ice plants - which attorneys said make a bad situation worse. 

“They're like water balloons and they become drenched with water, very heavy, sitting right on the top of that cliff so those ice plants literally drag this already unstable cliff down onto the people below it,” said attorney Bibi Fell.

Frustrated, the family is now taking legal action, suing the city, state and neighboring homeowners association for negligence and dangerous condition of property. 

“In this world, what effectuates change the fastest, unfortunately, is compensatory damages,” Chang said. 

The family is asking for an unspecified amount of monetary damages.

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