The Oakwood Garden apartment complex in Pacific Beach hosted a series of Sunday afternoon champagne gatherings in 1971. Newspaper advertisements announced that the general public was invited to attend. Crown Point resident Don Determan was among those who turned up at these promotional parties, which were intended to allow prospective tenants an opportunity to inspect Oakwood’s facilities. Determan didn’t live at Oakwood, but he was already quite familiar with the place; he’d been using the pools and jacuzzis and tennis courts ever since the 505-unit luxury apartment complex opened in 1968 under the name South Bay Singles Club.
One particular Sunday afternoon in 1971, Oakwood’s bartender was instructed by his supervisor not to serve Determan any free champagne. Determan responded by filing a lawsuit against Oakwood. The mental anguish he suffered as a result of the “no champagne” incident was listed as number seven of eight causes of action Determan filed against his host. He asked for damages totaling more than six million dollars.
It’s certainly not unusual for individuals and organizations to threaten each other with lawsuits. More often than not, however, the threats are simply empty ones because the high cost — in time and money — makes the courtroom effort not worthwhile. Pursuing legal resolution of the personal insult, the threatened principle, is a luxury — and rare. So is Don Determan, a Pacific Beach spokesman/defender of the rights of the individual. Of civil rights. Particularly his. He is one lawyer who disagrees with the maxim that the attorney who defends himself has a fool for a client. “It’s economically easier for an attorney to stand up for his rights,” Determan notes. He is in fact a lawyer, though he’s not a member of the San Diego County Bar Association, nor is he listed in the Yellow Pages, nor does he use an answering machine. However, he does pick up messages — every week or two — at a Mission Valley import/export firm dealing with inventions, for which he is retained as a certified public accountant and for which he has done some legal work.
He’s not that difficult to reach, though. He has another office, albeit informal and not exactly official. Look for him on any of the five tennis courts at Oakwood West (directly across Ingraham Street from Oakwood East). “I play in the mornings, sometimes through late afternoons — but usually not in the evening,” he says. And if he’s not on the tennis courts, try the swimming pool (“I swim seven laps a day,” he says). Or maybe he’s playing volleyball or basketball or softball, or maybe he’s soaking his tennis muscles in the jacuzzi. He could be at the tennis pro shop on the premises buying supplies. Or maybe Maurice, the Oakwood barber who’s been cutting Determan’s straight, sunbleached hair for the past thirteen years, is giving him another haircut. Or perhaps he’s just lounging on one of the deck chairs, having a drink and dispensing solicited legal advice, which he does at no charge. Who knows? Maybe he’ll pick up a potential client.
Determan’s challenges take place not only on the tennis courts but also in small claims, municipal, superior, and appellate courts. And even these battles sometimes seem to take on the characteristics of a vital tennis match, with Don Determan playing the part of John McEnroe. Although he has answered to “Big D,” “Digger,” “Detty,” and simply “D,” Determan prefers yet another. “The Falcon,” he explains, portends dealings with him on tennis courts, or in any other courts. “The complete expression,” he says, “is ‘Don’t Fiddle with the Falcon,’ and it originated on the tennis courts. It has to do with quick rallies — outreaching your opponent physically or mentally. ” He has “The Falcon” printed on his condominium doorbell and also on a legal folder containing case records — Oakwood case records.
The multimillion-dollar lawsuit Determan filed in September of 1972, in which he claimed multiple violations of his First Amendment rights and relative causes, was not the first time he had sued Oakwood, nor was it the last. That suit was merely one battle in a fourteen-year-long war between R&B Development Company (owner of Oakwood) and its very formidable opponent, forty-four-year-old Donald Paul Determan.
Complaints and cross-complaints, suits and countersuits, defendants and plaintiffs have been trading places like square dancers in a Virginia reel. Battles require weapons, and Deter-man’s is his legal knowledge — knowledge he has used in combat with police, security guards, managers, tenants, judges, and other attorneys, with both sides waving court documents at each other the way primitive tribes shake spears. The avalanche of paperwork involved seems nonstop. Determan’s cause? Protecting his rights as a guest, rights which he claims have been violated off and on during the more than fourteen years he’s been visiting the apartment complex. Oakwood’s claim is the right inherent in private property, and the right to manage that property effectively by restricting access. Mostly, though, this is the tale of an endless tennis match, sometimes played with writs rather than balls.
Although the Falcon visits Oakwood continually, quite often on a daily basis, he has never actually lived at Oakwood. He has claimed otherwise. “Depends on what you mean by the word ‘reside,’ ’’he’s answered under oath. “I might have slept there for a night or so . . .’’ “I’m not sure what apartment . .
“I might have left some tennis stuff in one of the apartments ...” “No, not on a consistent basis ...” “Could be in September, ’71 ...” “Maybe it was in August ...” “Maybe it was July . . “Might have been in November ...” The classic in a litany of evasive responses: “I’m almost sure she was probably there.” And so it goes. To date there’ve been hearings, writs, temporary and permanent injunctions, trials, delays, appeals — all heard by many judges in many courtrooms. But the controversial matter of Don Determan’s right to play tennis, to watch TV in the clubhouse, and to occupy a lounge chair at a private apartment complex at which he does not pay rent or receive his mail — this matter is still unresolved. So far the ongoing match has cost Determan $750 in fines, more than twenty courtroom appearances, an arrest for trespassing, a contempt conviction, and a few days in jail. He estimates that his adversaries have spent between $30,000 and $40,000 in legal fees to try to keep him off the premises. They have not succeeded.
Determan says his first introduction to Oakwood's tennis courts came in 1968, when he was encouraged to play there by then-resident tennis pro Steve Cornell, mainly for the purpose of being a good example to those players of lesser prowess. During the first six-year stint as an Oakwood guest and good tennis example, Determan claims to have played with more than 200 tenants. Furthermore, he entered Oakwood’s tennis tournaments and won several trophies, which now sit atop the big console TV set in his dark, dark living room. (The drapes are kept drawn because he watches a great deal of television. “Mostly sports,” he says.)
Hostilities between Oakwood management and the Falcon first surfaced in the spring of 1970, after Steve Cornell left his position as tennis pro. Police officers were summoned on several occasions to interrupt Determan’s tennis games and escort him from the premises, an annoyance the Falcon attributes to being so well-known. “I played tennis with all the better players. I was popular, was invited to a lot of private parties at Oakwood, and I guess that made some people jealous,” Determan says by way of explaining the factors that might have led to his singular harassment. That same spring the Falcon received a letter from Beverly Hills attorney Robert S. Manns, discouraging the Falcon’s use of Oakwood’s facilities by stating that he was a continual trespasser. Although attorney Determan disregarded his colleague’s warning, he says he did telephone Manns’ office to say that the allegations were unfounded. He was always an invited guest, he said. (Not so, according to Oakwood observers who say he would often loiter around the tennis courts trying to pick up a game.)
“Why don’t I play somewhere else just because certain people don’t like me to come there?” Determan asks himself. “Maybe they don’t like my appearance or anything else about me? Why don’t I just leave? The best analogy I can think of is being a Negro riding on a bus in the South. Maybe some people still think Negroes are undesirable and don’t want them on the buses. Does that mean they should get off just because some people are uncomfortable?” Determan’s defense of the faulty analogy (buses are public — Oakwood is private) is this: “Oakwood is actually a semipublic place. The barber shop, tennis pro shop, and newspaper stands are all open to the public. They hold exercise classes and the public is welcome to join, and sometimes at night they have lectures and paid dances at the facilities.”
The following spring, when Determan was scheduled to play in a doubles tournament, he says management pressured the new tennis pro to remove him and replace him with another non-tenant player. But multiple warnings, interruptions of his tennis games by security guards, managers, and police officers were not strong enough hints. Determan decided to tough it out. When management got tired of seeing Determan’s 1967 Mustang convertible parked in an unauthorized place — for example, another tenant’s official parking slot — the car was eventually towed away, infuriating Determan, who insisted that the towing was a discriminatory action and that he had been singled out for harassment.
He is well-known for his devotion to the rights of his Mustang to park wherever it wants, according to Connie Fedeli, administrative aide in charge of parking citations in the San Diego City Treasurer’s office. She says that alleys, red zones, passenger zones, expired meters, and downtown loading zones are among Determan’s preferred parking spots. “He blocks downtown sidewalks, creating a continual nuisance for businesses who need those spaces for delivery,” Fedeli grouses. Aside from parking where he pleases, the Falcon doesn’t like to register his vehicle either, and in November of 1982 it was impounded because he was driving around with expired plates and with an accumulation of well over a hundred parking tickets. At the Clairemont Mesa Boulevard traffic court, Determan made a cash settlement that month to get his car back and also managed to have more than a hundred tickets dismissed because the one-year statute of limitations had run out.
But old patterns die hard. Determan ’s Mustang was impounded again last April, once more for having been tagged with an excessive number of outstanding parking violations, and once again for being driven around town without current registration. Fedeli’s constant frustration with Determan’s ability to use his legal knowledge to outwit the law recently inspired her to exclaim, “I’m fed up with clever legal games used to evade the system and I want to change the law to impound any vehicle that has five outstanding tickets, so that side-steppers like Determan can be nailed before the statute of limitations runs out.” The Falcon retrieved his impounded Mustang in April by paying only $115 in fines. But he left in his wake thousands of dollars’ worth of suspended tickets due to legal technicalities. Today, as far as Fedeli knows, the Falcon’s Mustang is still unregistered and he still has outstanding citations, one acquired as recently as July 15. “The taxpayer is paying Determan’s parking tab,” complains Fedeli.
The April traffic court payoff coincided with Determan’s filing to fill the open position on the county board of supervisors created when Roger Hedgecock left that post to become mayor of San Diego. “It was a challenge,” says Determan today. About his qualifications, he says he has “above average” decision-making ability and has had lots of experience addressing the city council, the park and recreation board, and the coastal commission in San Diego, San Francisco, “and in L.A., I think.” His views on public service? “The more qualified the person, the better the public will be served,” he says. And when questioned directly, Determan says that clearing up the outstanding traffic citations last April had nothing to do with his filing for the county board of supervisors opening.
Back to the Determan/Oakwood historical harassment match. When another Falcon tennis buddy, resident pro John Krysiak, was fired in 1971, Determan acted as his attorney, serving Oakwood with a notice of forcible detainer. His client was subsequently awarded damages. Point for the Falcon. Four days after Determan served the notice of forcible detainer on Oakwood in the Krysiak case, police arrived to interrupt one of Determan’s tennis games and requested that he leave the premises.
It was during this epoch of mutual hassling that Determan used his legalese in a particularly creative manner. He attempted to circumvent Oakwood’s rule that he apply to the business office for a guest pass in the accompaniment of a tenant-sponsor each time he appeared, a rule that was beginning to tire him due to the frequency of the guest pass requests. He suggested to Steve Knox, whom he had met that summer playing softball, that Knox assign his own lease over to Determan, disregarding the fact that Knox’s lease contained a non-assignment clause. Nonetheless, Determan executed a lease assignment on September 7, 1971. A day or two later he showed a copy of it to Oakwood management and they rejected it. Without Oakwood’s consent, the document was certainly invalid. Still, the Falcon insisted that it was a “true legal instrument,” one which now made him a legal tenant of Oakwood even though no valuable consideration for the lease was given (a rent check, for instance), and even though Determan had never slept in the apartment occupied by Steve Knox and Knox’s two roommates.
Determan carried the document in his tennis bag as part of his standard equipment, along with extra tennis racquets, assorted balls, and extra socks. He produced the apartment leasehold interest and accompanying benefits (the right to use the tennis courts) each time he was ordered to leave. In a deposition, he stated that the beer and occasional sandwiches he had ordered from Crest Liquor across the street from Oakwood — about twenty or thirty dollars’ worth, Determan estimated — was his contribution or valuable consideration to the apartment where Knox and his roommates were living. Later, still under oath, he admitted that he had been living at his apartment on Riviera Drive in Crown Point continually since 1966, verified as his legal residence by his voter registration card.
Several days after Determan began flashing the lease assignment, on September 14, 1971, a citizen’s arrest was successfully made by Lillian Gail, Oakwood’s recreation director, who charged him with trespassing. The Falcon was subsequently handcuffed and put in the back of a police car, in which he was driven to the county jail downtown, where he was strip-searched and then left to spend several hours in the slammer in his tennis togs. He was released later on his own recognizance.
Attorney Determan represented himself in the misdemeanor trespassing trial. (“I haven’t suffered yet from representing myself in court,” he said.) Judge Manuel Kugler ruled that there was reasonable doubt that a direct request had been made for Determan to leave the tennis court, and Determan was acquitted. Point for the Falcon.
The multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by Determan against Oakwood, in which false arrest, imprisonment, and assault (tapping him on the shoulder when he was arrested) were some of the charges (also including the earlier “no champagne” incident), and Oakwood’s countersuit seeking an injunction against him — each case with its own trunkload of paperwork — was finally heard in the summer of 1974. Meanwhile, Determan had advised tennis buddy John Tatom to sue Oakwood for $15,000, charging breach of lease by not permitting Determan to be Tatom’s guest, thus violating Tatom’s First Amendment rights.
On August 11, 1974, Superior Court Judge Charles Froehlich, Jr. issued a temporary injunction that barred Determan from using Oakwood’s recreation facilities under any circumstances. Point for Oakwood.
However, on November 4 of that year. Judge Louis M. Welsh approved a permanent injunction (the result of out-of-court negotiations between Determan and Oakwood) with the stipulation that Determan may use the recreational facilities, provided that he register at the business office as a guest in the accompaniment of a tenant and provided he comply with the house rules. Part of those rules state: “In the event any invited guest conducts himself in an unbecoming manner or causes himself to be a nuisance while using facility, management reserves the right to revoke recreational facility privileges.’’ Such language lends itself to interpretation, thus inviting further court confrontation.
Determan never got the six million dollars he asked for in his lawsuit; he did settle for $3000, based primarily on false arrest and imprisonment, since the other charges were hard to prove. (Mental anguish? “I had a couple of dreams that were unpleasant. Mainly of being chased by police,’’ Determan testified, though he sought no medical treatment.) Neither side got what it wanted entirely, but the Falcon nonetheless considered it a victory and later was overheard bragging, “I made a monkey out of Oak-wood and there’s nothing they can do to me.’’
Determan describes the time between the Settlement of ’74 and the year 1980 as a period of peaceful coexistence, though the truce was, in fact, an uneasy one. He continued to hang around Oakwood long enough to make good use of lounge chairs and tennis courts and the jacuzzi. (The jacuzzi was a problem. According to the court testimony of those Oakwood tenants who found Determan’s constant presence to be offensive, the Falcon’s habit was to slip into the jacuzzi while still wearing his sweaty tennis shorts, without bothering to shower first.) He continued to turn up at brunches, barbecues, parties, tournaments, and other Oakwood festivities, just as tenants did. When he was asked why he didn’t actually move into an Oakwood apartment, considering the vast amount of time he was spending on the grounds, Determan said the place was too noisy and the security wasn’t that good.
During this continual undercurrent of hostility, the Falcon maintained his full-blown sybaritic image, soaking up the sunshine on San Diego’s bountiful playgrounds. This Southern California Good Ol’ Boy, with his season tickets on the fifty-yard line for the Charger games, swam every day, played golf and tennis and every other conceivable sport. There were the ongoing Tuesday-night poker games with the boys (some of whom are judges, lawyers, and doctors, he says) at his bay front condominium on Riviera Drive. He bought this two-bedroom, two-story abode when his complex turned from apartments to condos in 1974. It is decorated Fifties frat house style. Highly visible accoutrements of the Falcon’s main interests arc the baseball caps, sun visors, baseball jackets, phone books, papers, lots of tennis shoes strewn all over the living room. There’s a pinata hanging from the ceiling and a framed “Wanted Dead or Alive’’ poster on the wall — that and lots of other cute stuff, including his favored, solar-powered visor-radio. A TV set is hooked up in the poster-laden, photograph-loaded bathroom. Sometimes there are as many as four televisions going at the same time so he can catch all the games and all the sportscasters’ comments simultaneously. He doesn’t want to miss anything, say his pals. “Don really loves sports,’’ his allies and admirers note with understatement.
It should be said that when the Falcon is not engaged in serious combat, his poolside manner is really quite jovial, especially at his Crown Point condo.
Falcon to neighbor: “Hey, gotta Scotch for me?’’
Neighbor: “No I don't.’’
Falcon (grinning): “Okay then. I’ll drink my own and pour you one! ’’
His obsessive dieting (sometimes fasting) in order to prevent excess flesh from accumulating around the middle of his five-foot-nine-and-a-half-inch frame is evidenced by the myriad cases of diet soda pop all over the kitchen and jugs of cold water in the refrigerator. But the fingernails bitten down to the skin are probably the most telling indicator that there is a worrisome edge to what seems an idyllic, suntanned, beach-and-beer bachelor life.
The Falcon also became a peripatetic presence along restaurant row in Bird Rock in his stylized public uniform: a red USC sweatshirt, tennis shorts or jogging pants, and dark sunglasses. At the north end of Bird Rock’s La Jolla Boulevard was the Sea Thief restaurant, a watering hole Determan discovered shortly after it first opened in 1972. Owner/manager Billie Bomze says the Falcon brought in lots of customers, including his mother and his sister. (The sister later became a tenant at Oakwood, where she met her future husband.) During the times he was making nightly appearances at Bird Rock restaurants, Determan was responsible for introducing Abalone Cordon Bleu to the Sea Thief’s menu, but according to owner Bomze, he soon started becoming a pest. “He always looked disheveled in his dirty tennis clothes. There was nothing I could put a finger on,’’ she says, “but it was just becoming a bad scene. He used to keep nagging me for free drinks, free setups. He always said that Bully’s across the street always gave him free drinks and I always told him to go to Bully's.’’ Bully’s employees confirm Determan’s reluctance to pay for drinks. “He’d walk in here all the time and say, ‘I want a Lite beer on the house,’ ” recalls one of the bartenders.
Despite indications that would suggest the Falcon is San Diego homegrown, he was born in Sacramento in 1938 the son of an athletic housewife and a father who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from USC. He learned to play poker and tennis while he was in high school and then went on to Sacramento City College and Sacramento State. Later he became an airman third-class in the Air Force Reserve, and like his father, he became a certified public accountant. It was in his hometown that Determan first experienced incarceration — then for accumulating an excessive number of traffic violations. But the Falcon now explains the circumstances surrounding that early confinement as “a mixup. The attorney who was sort of the district attorney was supposed to dismiss the sixth violation,” says the Falcon, “but things got fouled up.” When Determan arrived in San Diego in 1964, he entered California Western University of Law. He graduated, was admitted to the state bar in June of 1968 and today is a member in good standing.
With neither a commanding presence nor a distinctive vocal style, Determan has nevertheless created what seems to be a small reign of terror in the neighborhood, with his legal tools and his known propensity to sue. Even now, the manager of a popular restaurant near La Jolla requested anonymity for fear of legal repercussions. He did, however, recite a series of attention-getting Determan habits. “He ignores the hostess and tries to seat himself while there’s a long line of people ahead of him. I guess he thinks he’s more important than anyone else because he comes in so often. He spits on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, and he’s walked on our wooden deck in his golf shoes. He demands lots of service, too. He drinks all kinds of different liquids — coffee, diet pop, ice water, Lite beer — and he seems to enjoy ordering them one at a time when the waitresses are especially busy,” claimed the manager.
Yet for all his detractors, the Falcon has a coterie of admirers, bound perhaps by their mutual tennisphilia. “He sticks up for his rights,” says long-term tennis/poker buddy and cigar-smoker Mike Margucci, an Oakwood resident who has testified in court on Determan’s behalf — “Reluctantly,” Margucci insists — that he never saw the Falcon on the premises without a guest pass. (Today Margucci is the provider of a substantial number of Determan’s guest passes. Determan, incidentally, estimates he’s had about a thousand of them.) “Don is his own person,” says Margucci, but what the sixty-year-old commodities-trading advisor admires most about Determan is his determination. “The case against Oakwood is one of the most important things in Don’s life,” says his pal.
The uneasy seven-year Oakwood/Determan truce ended abruptly in August of 1981. Exasperated with the Falcon’s continued presence, Oakwood’s attorneys filed a new lawsuit against him. They claimed he violated the 1974 permanent injunction by continually entering Oakwood without a proper guest pass and by annoying and harassing various tenants. Accompanying Oakwood’s complaint were declarations from several tenants who said they were being victimized by Determan’s physical presence. So Oakwood filed a motion to hold the Falcon in contempt of court for violation of the terms of the injunction; they also asked that the injunction itself be modified to restrict further the Falcon’s use of recreational facilities. This new legal action was in part prompted by a petition, circulated poolside by tenants Frank Waters and Gerald Marcus and signed by at least twenty-six people (Waters and Marcus claim more than fifty Oakwood tenants signed the petition but that the court mistakenly overlooked half the signatures). The Waters-Marcus manifesto sought to ban Determan and his two nontenant companions, Peggy Bookatz and Jim Chris, from using the facilities, claiming that their presence and manner, which allegedly included loud and profane language, interfered with and detracted from the tenants’ use of pools, jacuzzi, and tennis courts, and that tenants were being deprived of their assurances of quiet enjoyment of their homes.
In response, Determan circulated his own [handwritten! poolside petition. It read: “I have personally observed Don Determan at Oakwood apartments. I have never seen him shouting, using profane language, grossly spitting, or intoxicated at said premises.” The Falcon gathered eighty-eight signatures, though not all of those who signed were Oakwood tenants. Determan was amused, he said later, that several of those who signed his petition had also signed the Waters-Marcus petition. Along with the counterpetition came a sharp reprisal against senior citizens Marcus and Waters for circulating the first petition: Determan filed a libel suit on behalf of his petitioned friend Peggy Bookatz. Marcus and Waters were successfully defended by Mark Hagerty of Luce Forward Hamilton and Scripps, a venerable local law Firm; Oakwood picked up the $10,000 tab for legal fees. The judge ruled that the tenants were within their constitutional rights to petition. Meanwhile, more charges and countercharges flew between the Falcon and Waters and Marcus, Determan claiming that they were the principal cause of his problems at Oakwood. Determan retaliated with allegations of questionable business dealings involving Waters. He further claimed that Waters made several threatening phone calls to him, disguising his voice as a menacing Mafia figure, “Bomspiere,” charges which Waters denied. The judge wisely refused to get involved in what he termed “a neighborhood squabble.”
To buttress their argument that Determan had violated the terms of the permanent injunction, Oakwood’s attorneys offered the testimony of nine tenants, including the apartments’ tennis pro. The Falcon was accused of offensive behavior, of being at Oak-wood without the required guest pass, of not being side-by-side with a guest-pass sponsor, of undermining the authority of Oakwood’s manager, of lying about his tenancy to a security guard, of causing bona fide tenants to avoid recreational facilities when he was present, of a consistently rumpled appearance that was described as dirty and obnoxious, of inelegant behavior on the tennis courts (profanity and loud protestations at line calls), and — finally — of ‘‘gross spitting.” (In defense of the spitting charges, the Falcon differentiated between plain, ordinary spitting and gross spitting. ‘‘Spitting on the tennis court is gross. I spit in the bushes,” he said.)
Determan yelled perjury. He produced his own set of nine witnesses, who testified that they had never heard profanity, had never seen gross spitting, didn’t view Determan as a nuisance, and whose remarks all ended with, “Don Determan would not be involved in this controversy except for the pettiness and jealousy of a very few individuals.”
The outcome: Determan was held in contempt of court and he was placed on summary probation for a year by Judge Jack R. Levitt. Point for Oakwood.
According to later testimony, Determan was on Oakwood’s premises without a guest pass only four days after he was placed on probation. Determan just couldn’t seem to keep away, and every once in a while he couldn't resist testing the rules. By that time Oak-wood tenants were sharply divided into two distinct camps: the Waters-Marcus faction and the Determan tennis colony. Neutrality was difficult to maintain, according to ’frequent Determan tennis partner Mort Reiner, who eventually ceased to provide Determan with guest passes, due to the disapproval of and subtle pressure from the Falcon’s foes. “I just want to keep peace in the family,” said Reiner. The tensions resulted in a second contempt proceeding. In August of last year, Judge Edward Butler ruled against Determan after testimony that Determan had violated the guest-pass rules five times. In his ruling, Butler said it was especially reprehensible that a licensed attorney had so flagrantly continued to be in contempt of the court’s order. Butler rescinded the probation order and fined the Falcon $750; later that month Determan was taken into custody and served three days in jail for contempt of court. “I was in a cell, a large, open cell with forty or fifty other guys. I had a good job,” Determan recalls cheerfully. No dispute: Oakwood’s point.
The following month Judge Butler ruled that his court lacked jurisdiction to modify the terms of the permanent injunction, as Oakwood had requested him to do, thus denying Oakwood’s motion to prevent Determan from using their facilities. Point, the Falcon.
Apparently unfazed by his three days in jail, Determan was back on the tennis courts, thanks to some of his pals, who were still getting him guest passes. Last January Oakwood’s present manager, William Lawrence, received an amiable “Dear Bill” letter from the Falcon (replete with informal spelling) stating that he, Determan, had torn open the little finger on his left hand (“during a successful backhand shot,” the letter said) on tennis court number three during the previous summer, about six weeks before he had gone to jail. Determan wrote that his medical bills for treating the maimed finger [there were three stitches] came to at least $150 and that he would be happy to settle out of court for $1000. Since the letter brought no satisfaction, the Falcon then filed for $1500 damages in small claims court, this time claiming medical bills of more than $400. In addition to emergency room treatment at Mission Bay Hospital on July 3, 1982, the day of the accident — $127.25 — Determan visited an endocrinologist several weeks after the incident. He complained of high blood pressure, a situation he said didn’t exist until his finger was hurt. Attorney Determan struck out in small claims court. Point for Oakwood.
At this stage of the story, however, we already know that Determan’s forte is persistence, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the legal tale of the Falcon’s finger continued. On June 27,1983, Determan filed a suit against Oakwood in municipal court for the very same finger, this time claiming he was impaled on a sharp pointed prong in the fence, raising the ante to damages of $14,000 for pain and suffering plus medical expenses plus legal fees. Even more recently, Determan filed another claim against Oakwood, this time representing his friend Mike Margucci, who slipped on some water left in the elevator. “It was due to negligence,” says Determan sternly. And there’s yet another harassment suit the Falcon has filed against Oak-wood. “It hasn’t been served yet — only filed,” he says.
On Sunday mornings Oakwood is now bustling rather than hustling. Because it is no longer a swinging singles place (due in part to a recent court ruling declaring it illegal to discriminate against families with children), there are lots of youngsters around the pool. Some of them are with their pregnant mothers. Many grandparents are around, too. And families are in the clubhouse eating brunch together — bran muffins, orange juice, and coffee. Some of the long-time residents sit around the pool reading the Sunday paper. The old-timers are aware that Oakwood goes back to court in September to appeal the decision against modifying the permanent injunction and they are thus reluctant to comment on this phase of the war. “We don’t want to go to court. We don’t want any more lawsuits. We’ve had enough,” is all they are willing to say. Oakwood’s management won’t comment either. All five tennis courts are full. Don Determan is playing with a formidable opponent while bystanders keep score. He hits a strong serve over the net; his opponent misses the ball. “The Falcon strikes again!” he shouts cheerfully.