Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant for causes of action arising out of defendant's breach of contract, and for fraud. Plaintiff and defendant had entered into a contract under which plaintiff paid the purchase price for a Malibu residence to be held by defendant as the "nominal owner." The trial court rejected plaintiff's fraud claim, but found that defendant had breached the contract. The trial court denied plaintiff's request for rescission, but ordered that the property be sold and the proceeds apportioned between the parties in accordance with the contract. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court did not err by granting plaintiff relief based on defendant's breach of contract; defendant's challenge to particular provisions of the judgment were rejected; and plaintiff's appeal from an order denying his motion for leave to amend was moot. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Guan v. Hu" on Justia Law

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In an eminent domain matter, the condemning agency, Tri-City Healthcare District (Tri-City), made a pretrial deposit of $4.7 million and sought to take immediate possession of the subject property, a partially completed medical building. Medical Acquisition Company, Inc. (MAC) stipulated to Tri-City's possession of the building and withdrew the $4.7 million deposited under the "quick-take" provision of the California Constitution. The eminent domain matter was consolidated with another case involving a lease between the parties and ultimately proceeded to trial where a jury determined just compensation for the taking was nearly $17 million. The court subsequently ordered Tri- City to increase its deposit by about $12.2 million. Among other procedural maneuvers, Tri-City filed a notice of abandonment of the eminent domain proceeding. However, the superior court granted MAC's motion to set aside the abandonment. Tri-City appealed that order in addition to the judgment. MAC argued that after judgment, withdrawing a deposit made in an eminent domain action was governed solely by Code of Civil Procedure section 1268.140. Under that section, MAC contended the superior court could not impose any undertaking regarding the prompt release of a deposit to a single claimant after judgment has been entered. In addition, MAC argued the bonding requirement here frustrated the purpose of the quick-take provision of the California Constitution, and thus, should be declared unconstitutional. This was a matter of first impression for the Court of Appeal. After review, the Court concluded MAC was correct that any postjudgment withdrawal of a deposit in an eminent domain case was governed by section 1268.140. However, that provision allowed a court, in its discretion, to impose an undertaking upon objection by any party to the proceeding. The Court concluded MAC did not show how the trial court abused its discretion under section 1268.140. Additionally, the Court determined that MAC's contention that the bonding requirement was unconstitutional was without merit. As such, the Court of Appeal denied the requested relief. View "Medical Acquisition Company v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In 1998, Modesto, its Sewer District, and its Redevelopment Agency (RDA) sued retail dry cleaning businesses operating in Modesto, the manufacturers of dry cleaning equipment used at those establishments, and the manufacturers and distributors of dry cleaning solvent, alleging that the city’s groundwater, sewer system and easements, and the soil of property within the RDA project area were contaminated with perchloroethylene, a “toxic chlorinated solvent” and seeking recovery for past, present and future costs of investigation and remediation. The Polanco Redevelopment Act (Health & Saf. Code, 33459), which authorized redevelopment agencies to remediate contamination found in property, including private property, located in a redevelopment project area, and to recover costs from the “responsible parties” was central to the suit. After 14 years of litigation, with three appeals, a final judgment awarded damages with respect to three dry cleaning sites, including an award of punitive damages against three defendants; as to all other claims, judgment was entered in favor of defendants. The court of appeal vacated, holding that no special causation standard applies to Polanco Act claims. The court also: remanded with directions to deny motions for summary adjudication on the nuisance claims; reversed a punitive damages award; and vacated a directed verdict regarding property damage. View "City of Modesto v. Dow Chemical Co." on Justia Law

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The southern border of 1664 Spring Street, St. Helena, adjoins the northern border of 1670 Spring; 1660 Spring, adjoins the eastern border of 1670 and part of 1664. An alley connecting to the public street runs east below the southern border of 1660 and 1670 Spring. In 1993 the owner of 1670 granted the owner of 1664 an easement running with the land over the 12-foot strip of land along the eastern border of 1670. The recorded grant specified use limited to emergency or secondary ingress and egress. In 1998, the Smiths purchased 1670. By 2004, McBride owned 1664, and Vickers owned 1660. Vickers granted McBride a “driveway easement” within the western border of 1660 Spring. In a 2014 lawsuit, McBride alleged that her property at 1664 and the Smith property at 1670 share a driveway; for the past nine years, McBride and/or her predecessors have used the driveway, which is at least partially covered by a recorded right of way, for full ingress and egress and for emergency purposes; and the Smiths “erected permanent fixtures in said driveway to impede [McBride] and block her access to her property.” The court of appeal reversed dismissal of McBride’s claims for nuisance and prescriptive easement. View "McBride v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Creed-21 appealed the dismissal of its petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief under the California Environmental Quality Act (Petition). The trial court imposed an issue sanction on standing, which terminated the action, for the misuse of the discovery process in response to a motion for sanctions pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 2023.030 filed by real party in interest and respondent Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust (Wal-Mart). The project being challenged was a 185,682 square foot Walmart retail complex (the Project) located in the City of Wildomar. On March 11, 2015, the City’s council approved the Project. Creed-21 alleged that the Project violated CEQA and other laws. Creed-21 alleged against the Wal-Mart and the City (collectively, the Wildomar Defendants) that they failed to prepare an adequate environmental impact report and they violated the planning and zoning law within the meaning of Government Code section 65860. Creed-21 sought to stop the Wildomar Defendants from taking any action on the Project until they complied with CEQA and the planning and zoning laws. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing the terminating sanction. View "Creed-21 v. City of Wildomar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Antoinette Rossetta appealed the dismissal of her second amended complaint after the trial court sustained a demurrer by defendants CitiMortgage, Inc. (CitiMortgage) and U.S. Bank National Association as Trustee for Citicorp Residential Trust Series 2006-1 (2006-1 Trust). The complaint asserted multiple causes of action sounding in tort, and unlawful business practices in violation of the Unfair Competition Law arising from loan modification negotiations spanning more than two years. Rossetta also appealed the trial court’s dismissal of a cause of action for conversion that appeared in an earlier iteration of the complaint to which CitiMortgage and the 2006-1 Trust (collectively, CitiMortgage, unless otherwise indicated) also successfully demurred. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded: (1) the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrer to the causes of action for negligence and violations of the Unfair Competition Law; (2) the trial court properly sustained the demurrer to the causes of action for intentional misrepresentation and promissory estoppel, but should have granted leave to amend to give Rossetta an opportunity to state a viable cause of action based on an alleged oral promise to provide her with a Trial Period Plan (TPP) under the Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP) in April 2012; and (3) the trial court properly sustained the demurrer to the causes of action for negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress and conversion without leave to amend. View "Rossetta v. CitiMortgage, Inc." on Justia Law

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Joseph and Monique Howeth’s home shared a driveway with their neighbor Tina Coffelt’s. After the parties were unable to amicably share the driveway in accordance with an easement governing its use, the Howeths sued Coffelt, seeking injunctive relief. The parties ultimately reached a settlement agreement, which included a stipulation to the entry of judgment to resolve the lawsuit. The agreement also purported to allow the parties to seek a $1,000 fine in court if the other neighbor refused to comply with the agreement. When Coffelt allegedly began to ignore the agreement's restrictions on the use of the driveway, the Howeths filed a postjudgment motion seeking an "interim judgment" awarding them $12,000 in fines, plus attorney fees. The trial court denied the motion, finding that it did not have continuing jurisdiction to consider the motion and directed the Howeths to file a new lawsuit for breach of contract. The Howeths appealed, arguing the trial court had continuing jurisdiction to enforce the stipulated judgment and erred in denying the motion. The Court of Appeal concluded the judgment at issue here was a consent judgment, entered pursuant to a settlement agreement and a stipulation for judgment based on that agreement. Consent judgments are not appealable. The Court of Appeal determined that the Howeths did not attempt to enforce the judgment that resulted from the agreement between the parties, instead seeking to determine whether Coffelt had breached the agreement. Thus, the Court surmised, the order denying the Howeths’ motion was not appealable after judgment, and the appeal had to be dismissed. View "Howeth v. Coffelt" on Justia Law

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Wife and Husband both appealed from the trial court's postjudgment orders enforcing one of the terms of the parties' stipulated judgment, which required an equalization payment from Husband to Wife following a joint appraisal of certain real property. The Court of Appeal agreed with wife's claims that the trial court erred in awarding interest on that payment from the date of the trial court's ruling rather than the date the payment was due, about 19 months earlier. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's orders only with respect to the date when interest on the equalization payment began to accrue. View "Dalgleish v. Selvaggio" on Justia Law

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Appellants Ralphs Grocery Company and related subsidiaries (Ralphs) appealed an order striking their complaint against respondents Victory Consultants, Inc. (Victory) and Jerry Mailhot under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP law). Appellants contended the superior court erred in determining their complaint, which alleged a cause of action for trespass, arose out of activity protected by the anti-SLAPP law, and by concluding they failed to demonstrate a probability of succeeding on the merits of that cause of action. After review of the complaint, the Court of Appeal agreed with Appellants: respondents have not shown Appellants' cause of action for trespass arises out of protected activity. The acts constituting trespass were not protected activity. Although Respondents argued that Appellants were suing them based upon petitioning activity, which would typically be protected, such activity was occurring on private property. “Respondents have provided no persuasive argument that their activity occurring on such private property is protected. Additionally, even if we were to reach the second question under an anti-SLAPP analysis, we would conclude Appellants carried their minimal burden of showing a probability of succeeding on the merits.” The Court, therefore, reversed the order. View "Ralphs Grocery Co. v. Victory Consultants, Inc." on Justia Law

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Tammy Fernandes successfully sued vexatious litigant Raj Singh and his wife Kiran Rawat individually and as trustees of the Sita Ram (or “Sitaram”) Trust, for wrongful eviction and related claims. She obtained an award of compensatory and punitive damages, as well as costs and attorney fees. All defendants filed a joint notice of appeal through counsel. While Rawat and the Trust remained represented by counsel on appeal, Singh represented himself. On appeal, Rawat claimed the trial court erred in denying her motion to vacate the judgment based on lack of service, and attacked the punitive damage award. Singh also challenged the punitive damage award, disputed service on Rawat, and contended the attorney fee award was excessive. Finding no merit in defendants’ claims, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Fernandes v. Singh" on Justia Law