Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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In 2007, Plaintiffs borrowed $110 million from Bear Stearns to finance the purchase of a San Francisco apartment complex. In 2010, after plaintiffs defaulted, CP purchased the property at a nonjudicial foreclosure sale. Plaintiffs sued CP and others, alleging legal claims (breach of contract, fraud, slander of title, trade secret misappropriation), and equitable claims (unfair competition, to set aside the foreclosure sale, and for an accounting). Judge Miller struck plaintiffs’ jury demand based on provisions in the contracts, held a bench trial, and entered judgment for defendants. The court of appeal concluded Judge Miller erred by striking plaintiffs’ jury demand as to the legal claims, finding no error as to the equitable claims, and remanded the legal claims. On remand, Judge Kahn held that Judge Miller’s findings in connection with plaintiffs’ equitable claim for unfair competition necessarily resolved plaintiffs’ legal claims because the substantive law allegations of the legal claims are also alleged as grounds that defendants violated the UCL. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that after the partial reversal, plaintiffs were entitled to relitigate all factual issues relevant to the legal claims; that Judge Kahn violated the remittitur and the law of the case; that under the statutes governing judicial notice and summary judgment, Judge Kahn, could not consider the “truth” of the facts found by Judge Miller and even if Judge Miller’s findings had binding effect, those findings did not dispose of the legal claims. View "Rincon EV Realty LLC v. CP III Rincon Towers, Inc." on Justia Law

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Beau Gordon, a professional roofer, fell 35 feet through a "camouflaged hole" in a warehouse roof he was inspecting. For the resulting head injury, a jury awarded Gordon approximately $875,000 against the building's owner, ARC Manufacturing, Inc. (ARC) and Joseph Meyers. The primary issue on appeal was whether the trial court correctly refused to instruct on primary assumption of risk where, as here, defendants did not hire or engage Gordon. The Court of Appeal concluded that primary assumption of risk did not apply, rejected appellants' other contentions, and affirmed the judgment. View "Gordon v. ARC Manufacturing, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a 1958 real estate transaction between the predecessors in interest to plaintiff McDermott Ranch, LLC (McDermott) and the predecessors in interest to defendant Connolly Ranch, Inc. (Connolly). The parties owned adjoining ranches in an area called Section 10 in rural San Joaquin County, California. A dispute arose between the parties concerning the location of the southern and western borders of the Connolly parcel. According to Connolly, its parcel was approximately 165 acres with a border that ended at the Section 10 western and southern boundaries. McDermott argued the Connolly parcel was approximately 107 acres and only extended to a fence that ran along the western and southern portion of Section 10, plus a portion (the 24-acre Connolly defect) that connected the southeastern portion of the Connolly parcel to other land owned by Connolly in the adjacent Section 15. In September 2013, McDermott sued to quiet title to the disputed portions of Section 10 and to eject Connolly; Connolly cross-complained for the same relief. After a bench trial in 2016, the trial court awarded Connolly the disputed 58 acres under the agreed boundary doctrine, in part based on testimony from Mark Connolly regarding statements made by his father Robert Connolly about the background and intent of the parties in doing the 1958 transaction. Robert had negotiated the deal on behalf of his mother Ann Connolly, who was a predecessor in interest to Connolly. On appeal, McDermott contended the trial court erred in admitting the testimony regarding Robert’s hearsay statements under Evidence Code section 1323. McDermott also argued the remaining evidence was insufficient to support the trial court’s judgment because the deed and related documents reflect the parties’ intent to grant Connolly the smaller parcel. Furthermore, McDermott argued the trial court abused its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees after finding that McDermott had unjustifiably failed to admit certain requests for admission. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "McDermott Ranch v. Connolly Ranch" on Justia Law

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If the principal secured by a mortgage or deed of trust becomes due because of the borrower’s default in making payments Civil Code 2924c allows the borrower to reinstate the loan and avoid foreclosure by paying the amount in default, plus specified fees and expenses. Under section 2953, the right of reinstatement cannot be waived in any agreement “at the time of or in connection with the making of or renewing of any loan secured by a deed of trust, mortgage or other instrument creating a lien on real property.” The borrowers missed four monthly payments on a mortgage loan that had been modified after an earlier default. The modification deferred amounts due on the original loan and provided that any default would allow the lender to void the modification and enforce the original loan. The borrowers sought to reinstate the modified loan by paying the four missed payments, plus fees and expenses. The lender argued that section 2953 does not apply to the modified loan and that the borrowers may reinstate the original loan by paying the amount of the earlier default on the original loan plus the missed modified payments. The court of appeal ruled in favor of the borrowers. Modification is appropriately viewed as the making or renewal of a loan secured by a deed of trust and is subject to the anti-waiver provisions. Section 2924c gives the borrows the opportunity to cure their precipitating default (the missed modified monthly payments) by making up those missed payments and paying the associated late charges and fees, to avoid the consequences of default on the modified loan. View "Taniguchi v. Restoration Homes LLC" on Justia Law

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In 1997 the Water District sued to adjudicate rights in the Santa Maria Valley Groundwater Basin. Landowners (primarily farmers) filed cross-complaints, seeking to quiet title to their overlying rights. In a previous appeal, the court directed the trial court to quiet title to the Landowners’ overlying rights to native groundwater as having priority over the other rights, less the perfected prescriptive rights public water producers (who pump water for municipal and industrial use). The court later held that quantification of the proportionate prescriptive loss attributable to each of the landowners’ parcels was unnecessary and that the quiet title judgment was not illusory. The trial court then denied the Landowners’ motion to clarify that the amended judgment protects their overlying rights from future prescription The court of appeal reversed the denial on the merits, finding that the issue was not ripe. The resolution of the issue would require speculation about hypothetical situations in which the public water producers attempt to prescript against the Landowners’ rights. There is no specific fact scenario or evidence for review. The Landowners have not demonstrated that they will suffer hardship without an immediate decision; there is no evidence of an overdraft or of any asserted claims of prescription. View "City of Santa Maria v. Adam" on Justia Law

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Canyon View appealed from the trial court's orders denying its motion for attorney fees and costs under the Mobilehome Residency Law (MRL). In the published portion of this opinion, the court held that an action need not involve the mobilehome park management-resident relationship or landlord-tenant issues in order for it to "arise out of" the MRL. In this case, because Canyon View's actions against Lakeview, the BONY respondents, and the Household respondents were necessary to perfect Canyon View's right to free and clear title under the MRL, they arose out of the MRL, and Canyon View, as the prevailing party, was entitled to recover its reasonable attorney fees and costs. View "Canyon View Ltd. v. Lakeview Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Under Water Code section 13304, a prior owner of property may be required to participate in the cleanup of wastes discharged from its property that resulted in groundwater contamination if that person “caused or permitted” the discharge. The San Francisco Regional Board named UATC in a cleanup order addressing waste discharges from dry cleaning operations at a shopping center owned by UATC in the 1960s and 1970s. The court of appeal reversed, in favor of the Board. The knowledge component of the statutory element of “permitted” focuses on the landlord’s awareness of a risk of discharge: a prior owner may be named in a section 13304 cleanup order upon a showing the owner knew or should have known that a lessee’s activity created a reasonable possibility of a discharge of wastes into waters of the state that could create or threaten to create a condition of pollution or nuisance. The court rejected UATC’s argument that its liability was discharged in a 2000 bankruptcy reorganization proceeding. Even assuming the Regional Board’s entitlement to a cleanup order was a claim within the meaning of bankruptcy law, it was not discharged in UATC’s bankruptcy proceeding because it did not arise before confirmation of reorganization. View "United Artists Theater Circuit, Inc. v. Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Region" on Justia Law

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San Jose, a California charter city, enacted a policy for the sale of surplus city-owned land. Plaintiffs, low-income city residents, claimed that the policy violated the Surplus Land Act (Gov. Code 54220-54233), which prioritizes the use of surplus city-owned land for affordable housing purposes. The city policy includes several exceptions to that priority. The trial court disagreed, finding that in regulating how local government disposes of surplus property for the benefit of its residents, the Surplus Land Act addresses a decidedly municipal affair, not a statewide concern, and under the state Constitution does not preempt the city’s policy. The court of appeal reversed. The Surplus Land Act advances state land use policy objectives by mandating a uniform approach to the disposition of local government land that is no longer needed for government use. By requiring municipalities to prioritize surplus land for the development of low- and moderate-income housing, the statute addresses the shortage of sites available for affordable housing development as a matter of statewide concern. Because the statute also narrowly tailors the restrictions on local government to avoid unnecessary interference in the locality’s affairs, it meets the test for statewide preemption. View "Anderson v. City of San Jose" on Justia Law

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A tax sale of real property described in the deed as pertaining to surface rights does not include oil and gas rights which are "restrictions of record" in a previously recorded oil and gas lease. The Court of Appeal held that defendant was the surface owner of the property at issue, but he did not own an interest in the oil and gas under the property. The court modified the judgment to show that upon termination of the oil and gas lease, any remaining oil and gas rights described in the 1939 Memorandum of Oil and Gas Lease revert to the surface owner. View "Leiper v. Gallegos" on Justia Law

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Proceeds remaining after a home foreclosure sale were deposited with a trial court due to competing claims to the proceeds. A primary dispute between the claimants was whether a first in time trust deed sufficiently described the foreclosed property. Among other things, the court found the description was insufficient and the trust deed therefore void. It entered judgment in favor of a next in time state tax lien. Finding no error in the result of the judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "MTC Financial Inc. v. Cal. Dept. of Tax & Fee Admin." on Justia Law