Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Granny Purps grows and provides medical marijuana to its 20,000 members, in compliance with state laws governing the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. Santa Cruz County’s ordinance prohibits any medical cannabis operation from cultivating more than 99 plants; Granny’s dispensary was growing thousands of marijuana plants. The sheriff’s office went to the dispensary in June 2015, seized about 1,800 plants, and issued a notice of ordinance violation. Several months later, officers again went to the dispensary and took about 400 more marijuana plants. Granny sued, alleging conversion, trespass, and inverse condemnation and sought an order requiring the county to return the seized cannabis plants, The trial court dismissed.The court of appeal reversed. A government entity does not have to return seized property if the property itself is illegal but the Santa Cruz ordinance ultimately regulates land use within the county; it does not (nor could it) render illegal a substance that is legal under state law. View "Granny Purps, Inc. v. County of Santa Cruz" on Justia Law

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Under California Public Resources Code section 21167.6, documents "shall" be in the record in a CEQA challenge to an environmental impact report (EIR). The County of San Diego (County), as lead agency for the Newland Sierra project, no longer had "all" such correspondence, nor all "internal agency communications" related to the project. If those communications were by e-mail and not flagged as "official records," the County's computers automatically deleted them after 60 days. When project opponents propounded discovery to obtain copies of the destroyed e-mails and related documents to prepare the record of proceedings, the County refused to comply. After referring the discovery disputes to a referee, the superior court adopted the referee's recommendations to deny the motions to compel. The referee concluded that although section 21167.6 specified the contents of the record of proceedings, that statute did not require that such writings be retained. In effect, the referee interpreted section 21167.6 to provide that e-mails encompassed within that statute were mandated parts of the record - unless the County destroyed them first. The Court of Appeal disagreed with that interpretation, "[a] thorough record is fundamental to meaningful judicial review." The Court held the County should not have destroyed such e-mails, even under its own policies. The referee's erroneous interpretation of section 21167.6 was central to the appeals before the Court of Appeal. The Court issued a writ of mandate to direct the superior court to vacate its orders denying the motions to compel, and after receiving input from the parties, reconsider those motions. View "Golden Door Properties, LLC v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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A public entity desiring to retain condemned property under Code of Civil Procedure section 1245.245 has to "adopt" its initial and reauthorization resolutions within 10 years of each other; section 1245.245 uses the date of "final adoption;" the local law fixes when a resolution is "finally adopted;" and a resolution is "finally adopted" once the city council has enacted the resolution and it has either been (1) approved by the mayor, or (2) vetoed by the mayor, but overridden by the city council.In this case, plaintiff filed a petition for writ of mandate alleging that the city had a present legal duty to offer him a right of first refusal to purchase the property at issue. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of the petition, holding that the city finally adopted its initial and reauthorization resolutions 19 days past the 10-year deadline, and thus section 1245.245 requires the city to offer to sell the property back to its original owner. View "Rutgard v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff lost an investment property to foreclosure, he filed suit against the lender and its assignee, as well as the loan servicer, alleging breach of contract, wrongful foreclosure and three fraud claims. Plaintiff's claims were based on his assertion that, before the parties executed the credit agreement and deed of trust securing it in 2005, the lender made a verbal commitment that, at the end of the 10-year term, plaintiff could refinance or re-amortize the loan with a new 20-year repayment period.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment, holding that the verbal agreement to refinance or reamortize plaintiff's loan is subject to the statute of frauds and is unenforceable on that ground. Furthermore, the oral agreement is too indefinite to be enforceable. Therefore, plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to state a breach of contract claim. The court also held that plaintiff's allegations are the very sort of general and conclusory allegations that are insufficient to support a fraud claim, promissory or otherwise; because the alleged oral agreement is not an enforceable contract, its breach cannot support a claim of wrongful foreclosure; and plaintiff has not shown how he can amend to cure the defects in the complaint. View "Reeder v. Specialized Loan Servicing LLC" on Justia Law

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In a quiet title action, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of homeowners and Brighten Lending. The court held that the homeowners did not have inquiry or constructive notice of the LBS abstracts recorded under a different first name. The court explained that the burden was on LBS to record the abstracts of judgment against the previous homeowner (Guerrero) under the name appearing on the title of his property, not on the homeowners to identify the LBS abstracts recorded on a variation of Guerrero's name using his middle name as a first name. View "Vasquez v. LBS Financial Credit Union" on Justia Law

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In a consolidated opinion, the Court of Appeal decided two appeals currently pending related to a proposed waterfront development project in the City of Redondo Beach. In the published portion of the opinion, the court held that the Developer has obtained vested rights against the City under Government Code section 66498.1 and those rights vested before the passage of Measure C. The court rejected the Residents' subsidiary argument that the vested rights issue is not ripe for decision. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment in favor of the Developer. View "Redondo Beach Waterfront, LLC v. City of Redondo Beach" on Justia Law

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Eskaton, Eskaton Village-Grass Valley (Eskaton Village), and Eskaton Properties Inc. (collectively, the Eskaton entities) were related corporations that developed and support common interest developments for older adults in Northern California. Ronald Coley owned a home in one of their developments, Eskaton Village Grass Valley (the Village). He brought this suit against the Village’s homeowners association, two of the directors on the association’s board, and the directors’ employers (the Eskaton entities), alleging these directors ran the association for the benefit of the Eskaton entities rather than the association and its members. The trial court agreed with Coley in part, finding these directors breached their fiduciary duty to the homeowners association and its members in several respects. In particular, the court found one director improperly shared with the Eskaton entities the association’s privileged communications with its counsel, and both directors, in violation of the association’s governing documents, approved certain assessments that benefited the Eskaton entities and harmed many of the association’s members. Based on this conduct, the court found the directors’ employers, the Eskaton entities, were liable for any damages Coley suffered as a result, though it declined to find the directors liable in their personal capacities. It awarded Coley damages of $2,328.51 and attorney fees of $654,242.53. Both parties appealed. The Eskaton entities and the two director defendants (collectively, the defendants) contended the court should have afforded the directors more deference under the business judgment rule. They also claimed the court misread the association’s governing documents, miscalculated appropriate damages, and misapplied vicarious- liability principles in finding the Eskaton entities liable for their employees’ conduct even though their employees were not liable themselves. In his cross-appeal, Coley argued the court should have found the two directors personally liable for their conduct, and alleged the court wrongly rejected several of his claims against the defendants. The Court of Appeal agreed in part with both of the parties: (1) the court miscalculated the damages on certain claims and should, after reducing the damages award on remand, reconsider the awarded attorney fees in light of this reduction; and (2) the court should have found the two directors personally liable for their actions. In all other respects, judgment was affirmed. View "Coley v. Eskaton" on Justia Law

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Alviso filed suit against numerous parties, including Wells Fargo, that were allegedly involved in a sham transaction by which a seller purported to sell a property to a buyer who obtained a mortgage loan from Aviso to fund the purchase. The title insurer involved in the sham transaction, WFG Title, is Alviso's successor-in-interest and is not prosecuting the action. The trial court granted summary judgment for Wells Fargo, finding that it had no legal obligation to maintain public title records and further finding that equity did not justify displacing Wells Fargo as senior lienholder.The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that the trial court properly granted Wells Fargo's motion for summary judgment. The court held that a fraudulent or forged deed does not convey valid title and, because Wells Fargo was not negligent, neither equitable estoppel nor Civil Code section 3543 is applicable. Finally, the court held that Alviso's remaining arguments are forfeited. View "WFG National Title Insurance Co. v. Wells Fargo Bank NA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Sukru and Gulay Bayramoglu, like many others, sought to modify their home loan in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. They eventually succeeded in doing so in late 2011, obtaining a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment from their loan servicer, Nationstar Mortgage LLC (Nationstar). According to plaintiffs, Nationstar, among other things, unlawfully inserted an inflated loan balance, rather than their actual loan balance, in the loan modification agreement. And for that and other reasons, plaintiffs filed suit against Nationstar. The trial court rejected plaintiffs’ claims and granted Nationstar’s motion for summary judgment. According to the court, because plaintiffs had served “factually devoid” responses to Nationstar’s discovery, these responses tended to show that plaintiffs did not possess and could not reasonably obtain needed evidence to support most of their claims. And because, the court further found, plaintiffs never presented evidence to overcome this finding, it granted Nationstar’s motion. On appeal, plaintiffs contended the trial court wrongly found their discovery responses were factually devoid and, even if they were factually devoid, the court nonetheless should have found triable issues of fact precluded summary judgment. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with the first part of plaintiffs' argument. The trial court found plaintiffs’ interrogatory responses were factually devoid because plaintiffs, rather than directly state responsive facts, told Nationstar that the answers to its interrogatories could be found in certain identified documents. "Although these responses may have been improper and warranted a motion to compel further responses, they were not the equivalent of factually devoid discovery responses." The trial court's decision was reversed to the extent it was grounded on that reasoning. View "Bayramoglu v. Nationstar Mortgage LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Adams obtained a loan secured by a deed of trust against Vallejo residential property. Adams obtained a loan from an individual, Gallegos, secured by a separate deed of trust recorded against the same property. Adams defaulted on the junior loan, resulting in foreclosure and a trustee’s sale in 2008. Gallegos was the purchaser. The property was still subject to the senior loan; Adams remained the "Borrower,” named on the deed of trust. In 2017, Adams filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy. After her discharge, Adams filed a complaint, alleging “Violations of the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights” (HBOR), based on her 2016-2017 negotiations for a loan modification. She claimed that the defendants recorded notices of default and of trustee’s sale on the senior loan and failed to provide her with a single point of contact while her application was pending. The court granted the defendants judgment on the pleadings.The court of appeal reversed. While the complaint failed to allege facts sufficient to state a cause of action under the HBOR the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Adams leave to amend. The facts alleged in the complaint together with matters that are subject to judicial notice do not establish that the property is Adams’s principal residence as required under HBOR but there is a reasonable possibility that amendment of the complaint would cure this defect. View "Adams v. Bank of America" on Justia Law