Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
by
Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging that he improperly obtained money and property from plaintiffs' deceased parents. The trial court concluded that defendant was unjustly enriched and entered judgment in plaintiffs' favor for more than $34 million. The parents had executed powers of attorney granting defendant authority to act on their behalf in reclaiming and selling properties in Iran. Plaintiffs contend that defendant conspired with another individual to steal their parents' properties and defraud them out of tens of millions of dollars.The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the trial court properly denied defendant's renewed motion for inconvenient forum where the law of the case doctrine applies here; plaintiffs' claims are not barred by the statute of limitations; the trial court did not abuse its discretion by imposing discovery sanctions on defendant; and the trial court properly awarded plaintiffs equitable relief. View "Aghaian v. Minassian" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Charles Best Jr. and Robbie Johnson Best alleged that defendants (collectively the Bank), attempted to collect a debt secured by the Bests’ home, despite having no legal right to do so. They alleged that, in the process, the Bank engaged in unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent debt collection practices. Based on these allegations, they raised six causes of action, including one under the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The trial court sustained the Bank’s demurrer to the entire complaint on the ground of res judicata; it ruled that the Bests were asserting the same cause(s) of action as in a prior federal action that they brought, unsuccessfully, against the Bank. In the nonpublished portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal held that, as to three of the Best’s causes of action (including their Rosenthal Act cause of action) the trial court erred by sustaining the demurrer based on res judicata. As to the other three, the Court found the Bests did not articulate any reason why res judicata does not apply; thus, they have forfeited any such contention. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court held that the Rosenthal Act could apply to a nonjudicial foreclosure; the lower federal court opinions on which the Bank relied were superseded by controlling decisions of the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit, and the California Courts of Appeal. View "Best v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

by
ABS REO Trust II (ABS) appealed an order denying its motion to correct/vacate the portion of a prior quiet title judgment adjudicating the rights of a defaulting party, Clarion Mortgage Capital, Inc. (Clarion), despite that Clarion had not been served with the operative amended complaint and the court did not hold a hearing on the plaintiff’s claims against Clarion. The Court of Appeal concluded the court erred in denying ABS’s motion. ABS had standing to bring this motion and it met its burden to show the prior judgment was void as to Clarion. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded with directions for the court to grant ABS’s motion and strike the portions of the prior judgment relating to Clarion. View "Paterra v. Hansen" on Justia Law

by
Kevin Johnson, APLC, Kevin Johnson, and Jeanne MacKinnon (collectively, the attorney defendants) filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint on behalf of their clients Christian Clews (Christian), Barbara Clews (Barbara), and Clews Land & Livestock, LLC (CLL) (collectively, Clews Horse Ranch) challenging a decision of the City of San Diego (City) to approve the construction of a private secondary school adjacent to the Clews’ commercial horse ranch. The petition asserted the City’s approval of the project and adoption of a mitigated negative declaration for the project violated the California Environmental Quality Act, the San Diego Municipal Code, and the City’s land use plan. The trial court denied relief and, in Clews Land and Livestock, LLC v. City of San Diego, 19 Cal.App.5th 161 (2017), the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. Jan Dunning, Cal Coast Academy RE Holdings, LLC, and North County Center for Educational Development, Inc. (collectively, Cal Coast), the developers of the project and real parties in interest in the CEQA Litigation, then filed this lawsuit against Clews Horse Ranch and the attorney defendants for malicious prosecution. Cal Coast asserted the defendants lacked probable cause and acted with malice when they pursued the CEQA Litigation. The attorney defendants filed a special motion to strike Cal Coast’s complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute, to which the Clews Horse Ranch joined. The trial court denied the motion after finding that Cal Coast established a probability of prevailing on its malicious prosecution claim. Clews Horse Ranch and the attorney defendants appealed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion. The Court of Appeal concluded Cal Coast established a probability of prevailing on its malicious prosecution claim against Clews Horse Ranch, but not against the attorney defendants. Therefore, the Court affirmed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion as to Clews Horse Ranch, and reversed the order denying the anti- SLAPP motion as to the attorney defendants. View "Dunning v. Johnson" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit challenging the City's new enforcement policy of short-term vacation rentals (STVRs). The trial court granted plaintiff's petition for a writ of mandate enjoining the City's enforcement of the STVR ban in the coastal zone unless it obtains a coastal development permit (CDP) or a Local Coastal Program (LCP) amendment approved by the California Coastal Commission or a waiver of such requirement.The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the California Coastal Act of 1976 required the Commission's approval of a CDP, LCP amendment, or amendment waiver before the STVR ban could be imposed. Because there was no such approval, the trial court did not err by concluding that the STVR ban constituted a "development" under the Act. The court explained that the City cannot act unilaterally, particularly when it not only allowed the operation of STVRs for years but also benefitted from the payment of transient occupancy taxes. The court agreed with the trial court that the City cannot credibly contend that it did not produce a change because it deliberately acted to create a change in coastal zone usage and access. Finally, in regard to the City's argument that the Coastal Act exempts abatement of nuisances allegedly caused by STVRs, the City waived that issue by informing the trial court it was not "making the nuisance argument." Nor is the court persuaded that the political question and separation of powers doctrines apply. View "Kracke v. City of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff decided to jaywalk across a five-lane highway at night and was struck by a car, she filed suit against the owner of a condominium complex she was trying to visit, alleging claims for negligence and premises liability for having too few onsite parking spaces for guests.The Court of Appeal held that a landowner does not owe a duty of care to invitees to provide adequate onsite parking, either (1) under common law principles or (2) by virtue of a 1978 city ordinance that rezoned the complex's specific parcel for multifamily dwellings and conditioned that rezoning on providing a specific number of guest parking spaces. The court explained that a landowner's common law duty of care does not encompass a duty to provide onsite parking for invitees in order to protect them from traffic accidents occurring off site as they travel to the premises, and the court did so for two reasons: (1) such a duty is foreclosed by precedent, and (2) even if not foreclosed, the so-called Rowland factors counsel against such a duty. The court rejected plaintiff's claims under Ordinance No. 151, 411 for two reasons: (1) the ordinance is a parcel-specific ordinance adopted as the final step of a multistep administrative procedure and is therefore incapable of forming the basis for a duty of care, and (2) the guest parking condition of the ordinance was aimed at preserving the aesthetic character of the surrounding neighborhood, and not at protecting invitees from traffic accidents. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the condominium complex. View "Issakhani v. Shadow Glen Homeowners Ass'n., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Appellant and his wife obtained a home mortgage in 2006, but only the wife signed the promissory note. After appellant's wife died, appellant defaulted on the loan. Appellant alleged that the mortgage servicer, Specialized Loan Servicing, refused to communicate with him about the loan because he was not the named borrower. Specialized subsequently initiated foreclosure proceedings by causing a notice of default to be recorded. Appellant filed suit under the California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR), Civil Code section 2923.4 et seq., seeking to enjoin the foreclosure proceedings. After Specialized agreed to postpone the foreclosure sale and appellant failed to make his payment, the foreclosure sale proceeded as planned and the property was purchased by a third party. Appellant then filed an amended complaint against Specialized. Specialized moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted.The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that, by its terms, the HBOR creates liability only for material violations that have not been remedied before the foreclosure sale is recorded. The court held that where a mortgage servicer's violations stem from its failure to communicate with the borrower before recording a notice of default, the servicer may cure these violations by doing what respondent did here: postponing the foreclosure sale, communicating with the borrower about potential foreclosure alternatives, and fully considering any application by the borrower for a loan modification. After such corrective measures, any remaining violation relating to the recording of the notice of default is immaterial, and a new notice of default is therefore not required to avoid liability. Therefore, appellant has provided no basis for liability under the HBOR. The court also concluded that Specialized complied with section 2923.6 as a matter of law by conducting the foreclosure sale only after appellant failed to accept an offered trial-period modification plan. Finally, given the court's conclusions and the trial court's consideration of the merits of appellant's claims, the reinstatement of sections 2923.55 and 2923.6 did not warrant reconsideration. View "Billesbach v. Specialized Loan Servicing LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Chicago Title and others for damages and to rescind the sale of his two-unit residence in San Francisco. After plaintiff resolved the case with other defendants and rescinded the sale, he sought to recover as damages against defendants the attorney fees he spent in securing and quieting his title due to the rescinded sale, attorney fees he incurred defending against his possible eviction from the property, the rent he paid to live in the property before the sale was rescinded, and rental income he lost for the time he was off title.The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment on the pleadings, concluding that the trial court erred by deciding that it was legally unforeseeable to defendants that plaintiff would suffer loss of damages following the close of escrow by defendants. The court explained that this is not one of those "occasional" cases where foreseeability may be decided by the trial court as a question of law. Rather, as with most issues related to foreseeability, it is a question of fact for a jury. The court also concluded that the trial court erred in denying plaintiff's motion to amend where the evidence did not support a finding that defendants were surprised or would be prejudiced by allowing plaintiff to amend his second amended complaint as requested. Finally, the court noted the continued viability of nonstatutory motions for judgment on the pleadings, like motion in limine No. 10, is unclear. The court merely flagged the issue for future reference and to highlight potential pitfalls these motions often create for trial judges, as happened in this case. View "Tung v. Chicago Title Co." on Justia Law

by
This appeal involved two lawsuits, three parties, and one contract. In the first lawsuit, three neighboring property owners incurred varying damages due to a mudslide. The three parties sued and countersued each other for negligence and other claims related to water drainage. The parties eventually settled. The owners agreed to perform mitigation and repair work on their own properties according to their own separate plans. The agreement was memorialized in a contract (the Settlement Agreement). In the second lawsuit, two owners sued the third owner (a married couple). Plaintiffs alleged defendants breached the Settlement Agreement because their work was not in substantial compliance with their plan. But in a bench trial, the court found defendants complied with the contract by providing a copy of an engineer’s report stating their work was “‘substantially completed in accordance with the approved plans.’” The court also found no evidence of bad faith, fraud, or gross negligence. On appeal, plaintiffs contended the trial court misinterpreted the Settlement Agreement. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's interpretation of the Settlement Agreement, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Coral Farms, L.P. v. Mahony" on Justia Law

by
Developers submitted an application for a Berkeley mixed-use development with 135 apartments over 33,000 square feet of retail space and parking, pursuant to Government Code section 65913.4, which provides for streamlined, ministerial approval of affordable housing projects meeting specified requirements. The site is the location of the West Berkeley Shellmound, “believed to have been one of the first of its kind at the Bay’s edge, built ca 3,700 B.C.,” part of a City of Berkeley Landmark. Shellmounds were “sacred burial sites for the average deceased mound-dweller,” slowly constructed over thousands of years from daily debris and artifacts. The city denied the application.The court of appeal ruled in favor of the developers. There is no evidence that the project “would require the demolition of a historic structure that was placed on a . . . historic register.” Remnants and artifacts could be disturbed, but that is not the issue under section 65913.4(a)(7)(C). With regard to tribal cultural resources, the project’s draft environmental impact report concluded impacts on the Shellmound would be reduced to “a less-than-significant level” by agreed-upon mitigation measures. Given the Legislature’s history of attempting to address the state’s housing crisis and frustration with local governments’ interference with that goal, and the highly subjective nature of historical preservation, the intrusion of section 65913.4 into local authority is not broader than necessary to achieve the legislation's purpose. View "Ruegg & Ellsworth v. City of Berkeley" on Justia Law