Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Pacific Harmony Grove Development, LLC and Mission Valley Corporate Center, Ltd. (Owners) appealed the judgment entered in a condemnation case following the first phase of a bifurcated trial at which the trial court resolved certain legal issues concerning how to value the condemned property. The City of Escondido (City) sought to acquire by condemnation from Owners a 72-foot-wide strip of land (the strip) across a mostly undeveloped 17.72-acre parcel (the Property) to join two disconnected segments of Citracado Parkway. The City argued that the strip should have been valued under the doctrine from City of Porterville v. Young, 195 Cal.App.3d 1260 (1987). Owners argued the Porterville doctrine did not apply, and that the court should have instead applied the “project effect rule.” After a four-day bench trial, the court issued a comprehensive statement of decision ruling in the City’s favor on all issues. Owners appealed, contending the trial court erred by finding the Porterville doctrine applied, the project effect rule did not, and the City was not liable for precondemnation damages. After review, the Court of Appeal concurred with the City’s position and affirmed the judgment. View "City of Escondido v. Pacific Harmony Grove Development" on Justia Law

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After her husband Benny Wall (decedent) died, petitioner Cindy Wall (wife) petitioned the probate court to determine that a home, titled in decedent’s name, was community property. Decedent’s children, objectors Timothy Wall and Tamara Nimmo (the children) unsuccessfully objected. On appeal, the children contended the trial court erred: (1) in determining the Family Code section 760 community property presumption prevailed over the Evidence Code section 662 form of title presumption; (2) in failing to consider tracing evidence rebutting the community property presumption; (3) in determining the Family Code section 721 undue influence presumption prevailed over the Evidence Code section 662 form of title presumption; and (4) by applying the undue influence presumption where there was no showing of unfair advantage. Though the Court of Appeal concluded the first two contentions had merit, it affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "Estate of Wall" on Justia Law

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An individual bought a condominium, which she consistently rented for short terms. Sixteen years after her purchase, the owner’s association amended its governing documents to prohibit renting properties for less than 30 days. The Court of Appeal agreed with the owner that she was exempt from this prohibition under Civil Code section 4740 (a), which provided that an owner of a property in a common interest development “shall not be subject to a provision in a governing document or an amendment to a governing document that prohibits the rental or leasing of” the owner’s property unless that document or amendment “was effective prior to the date the owner acquired title” to the property. The trial court held that she was not exempt, so judgment was reversed. View "Brown v. Montage at Mission Hills, Inc." on Justia Law

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Where it is undisputed that there is a community property interest in real property, it is the obligation of both spouses to ensure that the family court has the information necessary to determine that interest, no matter which spouse brought the dissolution action. If the spouses fail to do so, the family court must direct them to furnish the missing information, reopening the case if necessary.Appellant challenges the family court's determination of the community property interest in the family home. Because the determination of the community property interest in the property at issue in this case was based upon incomplete information, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and remanded with directions to the family court to hold a limited retrial to determine the amount of community funds used to reduce the mortgage principal and to recalculate the community property interest. View "Ramsey v. Holmes" on Justia Law

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Mark Yazdani was the president and sole owner of Meridian Financial Services, Inc. (Meridian). Over the span of a year, Yazdani made a series of investments totaling $5,079,000 in an international gold-trading scheme run by a loan broker, Lananh Phan, who promised him “guaranteed” returns of 5 or 6 percent per month. It turned out to be a Ponzi scheme and when it collapsed, Yazdani lost most of his money. In exchange for some of his investments, Yazdani demanded “collateral” from Phan, in the form of "loans" or promissory notes secured by deeds of trust in favor of Meridian on Phan's residence, and the residences of unwitting third parties ensared in Phan's scheme. The loans were facilitated through escrow at Chicago Title Company. The purported borrowers never knew of these transactions; their signatures on the Meridian deeds of trusts were forged or obtained by Phan under false pretenses. After the Ponzi scheme collapsed and unable to recover his investment, Yazdani moved to foreclose on the purported borrowers. In one of two lawsuits, two of the purported borrowers sued Yazdani and Meridian (collectively, Appellants) to prevent foreclosure of and quiet title to their home. A judge cancelled the Meridian deeds of trust, finding that they were “forged” and that Appellants had acted with unclean hands in procuring them (the Orange County decision). In this, the second lawsuit, Appellants sued Chicago Title, among others, alleging they were induced to invest with Phan because Chicago Title’s involvement in the transactions reassured them that Phan’s investment scheme was legitimate. Appellants also sued more than 50 individuals who allegedly received payments from Phan, asserting they were Phan’s creditors, and the transfers of money to the individuals should have been set aside. Summary judgment was entered in favor of Chicago Title and the individuals. Appellants appealed both judgments, contending the trial court erred in giving preclusive effect to the Orange County decision. They also argued the award of attorney fees was grossly excessive and an abuse of discretion. Finding no merit to these contentions, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgments and the fee award. View "Meridian Financial etc. v. Phan" on Justia Law

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Mark Yazdani was the president and sole owner of Meridian Financial Services, Inc. (Meridian). Over the span of a year, Yazdani made a series of investments in an international gold-trading scheme run by a loan broker, Lananh Phan, who promised him “guaranteed” returns of 5 or 6 percent per month. It turned out to be a Ponzi scheme and when it collapsed, Yazdani lost most of his money. In exchange for some of his investments, Yazdani demanded “collateral” from Phan, in the form of "loans" or promissory notes secured by deeds of trust in favor of Meridian on Phan's residence, and the residences of unwitting third parties ensared in Phan's scheme. The loans were facilitated through escrow at Chicago Title Company. The purported borrowers never knew of these transactions; their signatures on the Meridian deeds of trusts were forged or obtained by Phan under false pretenses. Yazdani had been made aware of “irregularities” with the execution and notarization of the Meridian deeds of trust. Yazdani moved to foreclose on the purported borrowers. In one of two lawsuits, two of the purported borrowers sued Yazdani and Meridian (collectively, Appellants) to prevent foreclosure of and quiet title to their home. A judge cancelled the Meridian deeds of trust, finding that they were “forged” and that Appellants had acted with unclean hands in procuring them (the Orange County decision). However, the parties later settled and, as a condition of settlement, obtained a stipulated order from a different judge vacating most of the trial judge’s decision. In this, the second lawsuit, Appellants sued Chicago Title, among others, alleging they were induced to invest with Phan because Chicago Title’s involvement in the transactions reassured them that Phan’s investment scheme was legitimate. Appellants also sued more than 50 individuals who allegedly received payments from Phan, asserting they were Phan’s creditors and the transfers of money to the individuals should be set aside. Summary judgment was entered in favor of Chicago Title and the individuals. Appellants appealed both judgments, contending the trial court erred in giving preclusive effect to the Orange County decision. They also argued the award of attorney fees was an abuse of discretion. Finding no merit to these contentions, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgments and the fee award. View "Meridian Financial etc. v. Phan" on Justia Law

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San Francisco obtained fee title to an 80-foot strip of land by grant deed in 1951 from the plaintiffs' grandparents to construct an underground pipeline for the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System. The deed reserved to the plaintiffs’ family the right to use the surface of the property for pasturage and the right to construct roads and streets “over and across” the property “but not along in the direction of the City’s pipe line or lines.” The property has served since the 1960s as a paved parking lot for commercial uses on plaintiffs’ properties on either side of the pipeline. When a dispute arose about whether parking and related circulation was authorized under the deed versus under a revocable permit issued by San Francisco in 1967, the plaintiffs filed a quiet title action.On remand, the trial court concluded that the deed authorized plaintiffs to use the pipeline property for ornamental landscaping, automobile access, circulation, and parking. The court of appeal agreed that the deed authorizes ornamental landscaping, the three existing paved roads running across the pipeline property, and the use of the property to access auto mechanic service bays. While some degree of parking incidental to those authorized uses may be allowed, the express language of the deed does not allow the plaintiffs’ current use of the pipeline property as a parking lot. View "Pear v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Gary and Bella Martin appealed after the trial court granted in part and denied in part their petition for writ of administrative mandate to challenge the imposition of certain special conditions placed on the development of their property - a vacant, oceanfront lot in Encinitas - by the California Coastal Commission (Commission). The Commission also appealed the judgment. The Martins’ challenged a condition requiring them to eliminate a basement from their proposed home, while the Commission challenged the trial court’s reversal of its condition requiring the Martins to set back their home 79 feet from the bluff edge. Because the Court of Appeal agreed with its own recent decision in Lindstrom v. California Coastal Com., 40 Cal.App.5th 73 (2019) interpreting the same provisions of the Encinitas Local Coastal Program (LCP) and Municipal Code at issue here, the trial court’s invalidation of the Commission’s setback requirement was reversed. The trial court’s decision to uphold the basement prohibition was affirmed. View "Martin v. Cal. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Champir, LLC (Champir), Daniel Javaheri, and Shiva Dehghani sued the Fairbanks Ranch Association (the Association) to enforce the recorded covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) of their planned development community. Upon resolution of the litigation, both parties sought an award of attorney fees and costs as the “prevailing party” under Civil Code section 5975(c). The trial court determined Plaintiffs were the prevailing party and entered judgment for Plaintiffs with an award of $112,340 in attorney fees, plus costs of suit. The Association appealed, asserting the court should have determined that it was the prevailing party in the litigation. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Champir, LLC v. Fairbanks Ranch Assn." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Linda and Dwayne Struiksma lost title to their home in a foreclosure sale. The purchaser at the sale then brought an unlawful detainer action against them under Code of Civil Procedure section 1161a(b)(3). A default judgment was issued, and plaintiffs were evicted from their property. Plaintiffs then filed this action against defendants HSBC Bank USA, N.A. and Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC (collectively, defendants), their lender and loan servicer, who were not parties to the unlawful detainer action. Generally, they alleged defendants carelessly failed to credit several payments to their loan balance. Thus, plaintiffs contended they were never in default and defendants wrongfully foreclosed on the property. The trial court sustained defendants’ demurrer to the complaint, finding all of plaintiffs’ claims were precluded by the unlawful detainer judgment except for a claim under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), which was defective for other reasons. Plaintiffs were denied leave to amend on all claims and appealed the resulting judgment. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court erred in ruling plaintiffs’ claims were precluded, and published this case to clarify the preclusive effect of an unlawful detainer action under section 1161a. Defendants also argued certain claims the trial court found precluded failed for reasons other than preclusion. Given its ruling, the court had no opportunity to consider these arguments. So, this case was remanded for the trial court to consider them in the first instance. As to the TILA claim, the Court held it suffered from several defects, and the trial court correctly sustained the demurrer to this claim without leave to amend. View "Struiksma v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law