Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Plaintiffs Matthew Matson and Matson SDRE Group, LLC purchased a deed of trust at a nonjudicial foreclosure sale. S.B.S. Trust Deed Network (SBS) was the trustee and Bank of Southern California, N.A. (BSC) was the beneficiary of the deed of trust. Matson, relying on a software application called PropertyRadar, believed that the deed of trust was in first position on the property. He purchased the deed of trust for $502,000 at the foreclosure auction, then learned that the lien was in second position, with a much lower fair market value than the price paid. Plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint against defendants for rescission of the sale and declaratory relief, relying on Matson's unilateral mistake of fact and the unconscionable price he paid for the deed of trust. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The court granted summary judgment for defendants. Plaintiffs appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "Matson v. S.B.S. Trust Deed Network" on Justia Law

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HGST bought manufacturing fixtures, machinery, and equipment for $2.4 billion in 2002. The Santa Clara County Assessor annually imposed escape assessments (corrections to assessed value on the local property tax roll) on the property, 2003-2008. HGST challenged the assessor’s findings. The Assessment Appeals Board (AAB) issued findings in 2012 largely adopting the assessor’s findings. HGST filed an unsuccessful claim for a refund of $15 million with the Board of Supervisors. In 2014, HGST filed suit, seeking a refund. The court ruled in favor of the county. The court of appeal affirmed in part, rejecting arguments that the trial court: erred by reviewing the entire case in blanket fashion under a substantial evidence standard rather than examining each individual claim to determine which standard of review should apply; erroneously failed to review certain legal challenges to the valuation methodology applied by the AAB; and erred by upholding the AAB’s decision not to apply the “purchase price presumption” set forth in Revenue and Taxation Code section 110. The court reversed in part. The trial court erred by upholding the imposition of interest on the escape assessments under section 531.4; it made no findings on what portion of the property was reported accurately or to what extent the escape assessments were caused by HGST’s purported failure to report the property accurately. View "HGST, Inc. v. County of Santa Clara" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his next door neighbor, alleging trespass and nuisance claims, and seeking to remove a portion of defendant's fence, which encroached on plaintiff's property. Plaintiff also sought to enjoin defendant from continuing to park old, inoperable cars on a driveway plaintiff owned, and to collect damages for defendant's past use of the driveway. Defendant raised a statute of limitations defense. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's conclusion that the fence and parked cars were continuing encroachments and affirmed the trial court's order of their removal. Therefore, the trial court correctly found that plaintiff's trespass and nuisance claims were not time-barred. The court also affirmed the trial court's conclusion that plaintiff failed to prove his damages claim. Although the court agreed with plaintiff that he was entitled to damages, the court found the real estate appraisal expert's estimate was not an accurate measure of the benefit received. Furthermore, plaintiff did not present any other evidence upon which the trial court could value the benefits defendant received. View "Madani v. Rabinowitz" on Justia Law

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The City of San Diego (the City) appealed a judgment in a lawsuit filed by Citizens for South Bay Coastal Access (Plaintiff), which challenged the City's issuance of a conditional use permit allowing it to convert a motel that it recently purchased into a transitional housing facility for homeless misdemeanor offenders. Specifically, the City contended the trial court erred by ruling that the City was required to obtain a coastal development permit for the project because the motel was located in the Coastal Overlay Zone as defined in the City's municipal code. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in concluding that a coastal development permit was required under state law regulations promulgated by the California Coastal Commission (the Commission). Because the Commission certified the City's local coastal program, those provisions applied here rather than the Commission's regulations. "Under the City's local coastal program, the project is exempt from the requirement to obtain a coastal development permit because it involves an improvement to an existing structure, and no exceptions to the existing- structure exemption are applicable." Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment. View "Citizens for South Bay Coastal Access v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Irma Yolanda Munoz Soto sued Union Pacific Railroad Company and two of its employees, Scott King and Robert Finch (collectively, Union Pacific), for wrongful death (premises liability and general negligence) after Soto’s 16-year-old daughter was struck and killed by a freight train on an at-grade railroad crossing in Santa Clarita. The court granted Union Pacific’s motion for summary judgment, concluding as to Soto’s premises liability claim Union Pacific had no duty to remedy a dangerous condition because it did not own or control the railroad crossing. As to Soto’s negligence claim, the court ruled Soto could not establish that Union Pacific employees had negligently operated the train. On appeal, Soto argued she raised triable issues of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment. After review, of the evidence and governing law applicable to Soto’s claim, the Court of Appeal concurred there were no triable issues of fact, and summary judgment was appropriate. View "Soto v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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The application called for a “tennis cabaña” with a guest room and bathroom, next to a tennis court on a 2.38-acre residential property. Neighbors objected that the cabaña was inconsistent with the neighborhood; was too close to an adjacent home: was an illegal second unit; violated a landscape condition imposed when the tennis court was approved; was too large, too close to neighboring residences; was inconsistent with the general plan and municipal code; that the hearing notices violated the Brown Act; and that the applicants had an unfair advantage because their architect was a Planning Commission member. The applicants cut the size to 1,100 square feet and increased the distance from the cabaña to a neighboring project, and improved landscaping. The Commission approved the project subject to conditions, including a landscape agreement and the prohibition on use as a secondary dwelling unit. The City Council denied an appeal. While approval was pending, the applicants’ attorney threatened to sue if the city denied the project; the Council discussed the threat of litigation during closed sessions. That a threat of litigation had been made was not noted in the agenda for any of the public meetings. Plaintiffs did not learn about the litigation threat or the discussions until after the project had been approved. The court of appeal affirmed. While the city improperly considered the application in closed sessions in violation of Gov. Code 54950 (Brown Act), there was no prejudice. View "Fowler v. City of Lafayette" on Justia Law

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This case arose when Constellation filed an unlawful detainer action against World Trading, which Constellation then converted to a damages action against World Trading and World Tech Toys for breach of contract. Constellation sought damages for past-due rent, late fees, interest, failure to maintain and repair, costs incurred by not being able to use the premises, and holdover rent. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred by ruling that the commercial holdover provision was an unlawful penalty. Rather, the commercial holdover provision was valid and Constellation was entitled to enforce it against World Trading. The court upheld the trial court's finding that World Tech was not jointly and severally liable as an alter ego of World Trade and remanded Constellation's estoppel and agency arguments for the trial court to decide. The court directed the trial court to include the $1,000 sanctions in the final judgment. The court otherwise affirmed the judgment and dismissed World Trading and World Tech's cross-appeal. View "Constellation-F, LLC v. World Trading 23, Inc." on Justia Law

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After the condominium association sued the developer alleging construction defects, the association began arbitration without obtaining a vote of its members. However, the association's governing documents required arbitration of such disputes and a vote of at least 51 percent of the association's membership prior to beginning arbitration. The members later overwhelmingly voted to pursue the arbitration, but the arbitrator dismissed the arbitration for lack of a membership vote prior to its commencement. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's confirmation of the award and entry of judgment for the developer. The court disagreed with Branches Neighborhood Corp. v. CalAtlantic Group, Inc. (2018) 26 Cal.App.5th 743, which held that unless the association has obtained approval by a vote of at least 51 percent of its members prior to beginning arbitration, it has forever forfeited its right to pursue its claims in any forum in spite of an overwhelming ratifying vote. The court stated that this interpretation directly violates the public policy expressed in Code of Civil Procedure section 1286.2, subdivision (a)(4). In this case, the court held that the language of section 7.01B of the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R's) violates explicit legislative expressions of public policy. Furthermore, the Legislature has also determined that provisions such as section 7.01B are unconscionable. The court stated that Senate Bill No. 326 bars the use of provisions such as section 7.01B as a defense for developers against claims of condominium associations. View "Dos Vientos v. CalAtlantic Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleges she bought her Richmond home in 1973, refinanced her mortgage in 2005, and unsuccessfully applied for a loan modification in 2015. Plaintiff was not allowed to make payments in the interim and owed $20,000 in arrears. Plaintiff sought Chapter 13 bankruptcy relief. She was required to make monthly payments to cover her pre-petition mortgage arrears plus her regular monthly mortgage payments. Plaintiff failed to make her regular October 2016 mortgage payment. Defendant sought relief from the automatic bankruptcy stay. The bankruptcy court approved an agreement that she would pay the October and November payments over a period beginning in January 2017. Plaintiff claims defendant violated that agreement, that her attempts to make those payments failed, and that she was unable to contact the defendant’s “single point of contact” for foreclosure avoidance (Civil Code 2923.7) Defendant obtained relief from the bankruptcy stay and would not accept the January 2017 payment. At the time of the bankruptcy sale, plaintiff’s home was worth approximately $550,000; defendant sold the home for $403,000. The court of appeal reversed the dismissal of plaintiff’s claim that she should have been able to avoid foreclosure by tendering the amount in default (Civ. Code 2924c) and that it was unlawful for defendant also to demand payment on amounts subject to a confirmed bankruptcy plan and reversed the dismissal of the section 2923.7 claim but upheld the dismissal of breach of contract, negligence, and elder abuse claims. View "Williams v. 21st Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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Farid Hedayatzadeh (Hedayatzadeh) appealed following the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the City of Del Mar (the City) in his lawsuit arising out of the death of his 19-year-old son, who was struck by a train on an oceanfront bluff in Del Mar on property owned by North County Transit District (NCTD). Specifically, Hedayatzadeh argued the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on his single cause of action alleging a dangerous condition of public property based primarily on the City's failure to erect any barriers to prevent pedestrians from accessing NCTD's train tracks. On the night at issue, Javad Hedayatzadeh and his friends walked around the guardrail at the end of 13th Street, down an unimproved dirt embankment, and crossed the train tracks. The group then walked northbound on the west side of the tracks to a spot where they sat and smoked marijuana. They knew they were trespassing on NCTD property. At various points along the railroad right-of-way, NCTD has installed signs stating "No Trespassing," "Danger" and "Railroad Property." Javad noticed a freight train coming from the south and told his friends that he was going to use his phone to take a video "selfie" of himself next to the train. As Javad was near the train tracks taking the selfie, he was struck by the train and killed. After filing an unsuccessful claim under the Government Claims Act, Javad's father, Hedayatzadeh, filed this lawsuit against the City, NCTD, and BNSF Railway Company, which allegedly operated the freight train. The Court of Appeal concluded that, as a matter of law, the City's property at the end of 13th Street did not constitute a dangerous condition of public property even though the City did not take action to prevent pedestrians from accessing the train tracks on NCTD's adjacent right-of-way by walking around the guardrail at the end of the street. View "Hedayatzadeh v. City of Del Mar" on Justia Law