Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Class actions are not allowed under the Right to Repair Act except in one limited context: to assert claims that address solely the incorporation into a residence of a defective component, unless that component is a product that is completely manufactured offsite. The Court of Appeal held that, because the claim here involved allegedly defective products that were completely manufactured offsite, the claim alleged under the Act could not be litigated as a class action. In this case, homeowners could not bring a class action asserting a claim under the Act against Kohler, the manufacturer of an allegedly defective plumbing fixture used in the construction of class members' homes. Therefore, the court granted Kohler's writ petition and issued a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its order to the extent it denied in part Kohler's anti-class certification motion and to enter a new order granting the motion in its entirety. View "Kohler Co. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Lloyd Copenbarger, as Trustee of the Hazel I. Maag Trust (the Maag Trust), sued Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, Inc. (MCWE) for declaratory relief and breach of a settlement agreement made to resolve various disputes, including an unlawful detainer action. MCWE was the lessee of a 50-year ground lease (the Ground Lease) of real property (the Property) in Newport Beach. The Property was improved with an office building and marina (the Improvements). The Ground Lease was set to terminate on December 1, 2018. In 2004, MCWE subleased the Property and sold all of the Improvements to NHOM (the Sublease). Starting in 2009, NHOM experienced cash flow problems due to “a shortage of rents.” In June 2011, MCWE commenced an unlawful detainer action against NHOM based on allegations NHOM failed to maintain and undertake required repairs to the Improvements. Six months later, the Maag Trust intervened in the UD Action as a party defendant under the theory that if NHOM were evicted and the Sublease terminated, then the Maag Trust’s security interest created by the Maag Deed of Trust would be destroyed. In August 2012, MCWE, Plaza del Sol, and the Maag Trust entered into a settlement agreement (the Settlement Agreement). The Maag Trust alleged MCWE breached the settlement agreement by failing to dismiss with prejudice the unlawful detainer action and sought, as damages, attorney fees incurred in that action from the date of the settlement agreement to the date on which MCWE did dismiss the action. Following a bench trial, the trial court found MCWE had breached the settlement agreement by not timely dismissing with prejudice the unlawful detainer action. As damages, the court awarded the Maag Trust attorney fees it claimed to have incurred during the relevant time period. On appeal, MCWE did not challenge the finding that its failure to dismiss the unlawful detainer action constituted a breach of the settlement agreement. Instead, MCWE made a number of arguments challenging the damages awarded. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment against MCWE because there was a wholesale failure of proof of the amount of damages on the part of the Maag Trust. Therefore, the Court reversed with directions to enter judgment in favor of MCWE on the Maag Trust’s complaint. View "Copenbarger v. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs David and Hedda Schmidt appeal from a judgment entered in favor of defendants Citibank, N.A., as Trustee for Structured Asset Mortgage Investments II Trust 2007-AR3 Mortgage Pass Through Certificates Series 2007-AR3, and Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. (defendants). In January 2007, the Schmidts obtained a $1,820,000 loan, secured by a residence at 2415 Rue Denise in La Jolla, California (the Property). The deed of trust was assigned to Citibank, N.A., as Trustee for Structured Asset Mortgage Investments II Trust 2007-AR3 Mortgage Pass Through Certificates Series 2007-AR3. The Schmidts defaulted on the loan and entered into a loan modification agreement in February 2013 with their loan servicer at the time, JPMorgan Chase Bank. Within approximately seven months, the Schmidts defaulted on the loan modification agreement. The Schmidts would apply for and be denied loan modification every year from 2013 to 2017. They sued defendants, alleging violations of the Homeowners' Bill of Rights and Business and Professions Code section 17200, seeking to prevent the completion of a trustee's sale of their residence. The defendants moved for summary judgment and presented evidence of extensive and numerous telephone calls between the Schmidts and Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., the loan servicer, during which the Schmidts' financial situation was discussed, as were possible options to avoid foreclosure. The trial court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in their favor. On appeal, the Schmidts contended summary judgment should not have been granted because there remained triable issues of fact to be determined. The Court of Appeal disagreed and affirmed the judgment. View "Schmidt v. Citibank, N.A." on Justia Law

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In this case, the parties disputed which of their recorded liens against a golf course property had priority. In 2013, defendant, cross-complainant, and respondent, Southern California Investors, Inc. (SCI), recorded a third deed of trust against the golf course property. In 2014, plaintiff, cross-defendant, and appellant, Bear Creek Master Association (BCMA), a homeowners association, recorded an assessment lien against the property. The trial court entered judgment on the pleadings in favor of SCI after determining that SCI’s third deed of trust had priority over BCMA’s later-recorded assessment lien. BCMA appealed, claiming its assessment lien was created by the covenants, conditions, and restrictions governing the golf course property (the GCC&R’s) and “relates back” to their 1984 recordation. The Court of Appeal disagreed: according to the lien provisions of the GCC&R’s, the assessment lien was neither created nor perfected until it was recorded in 2014. Nonetheless, the Court agreed with BCMA’s alternative claim that its assessment lien had priority over SCI’s previously-recorded third deed of trust pursuant to the priority and subordination provisions of the GCC&R’s, even though the assessment lien was recorded after SCI’s third deed of trust was recorded. View "Bear Creek Master Assn. v. Southern Cal. Investors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Thee Sombrero, Inc. (Sombrero) owned commercial property. Pursuant to a conditional use permit (CUP), Sombrero’s lessees operated the property as a nightclub called El Sombrero. Crime Enforcement Services (CES) provided security guard services at the club. In 2007, after a fatal shooting, the CUP was revoked and replaced with a modified CUP, which provided that the property could be operated only as a banquet hall. In a previous action, Sombrero sued CES, alleging that CES’s negligence caused the shooting, which in turn caused the revocation of the CUP, which in turn caused a diminution in value of the property. It won a default judgment against CES. Sombrero then filed this direct action against Scottsdale Insurance Company (Scottsdale), CES’s liability insurer. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Scottsdale, ruling that Sombrero’s claim against CES was for an economic loss, rather than for “property damage” as defined in and covered under the policy. The Court of Appeal held Sombrero’s loss of the ability to use the property as a nightclub constituted property damage, which was defined in the policy as including a loss of use of tangible property. View "Thee Sombrero, Inc. v. Scottsdale Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The City of San Diego approved a development project at Balboa Park. Most of Balboa Park's Central Mesa was a National Historic Landmark District and the Cabrillo Bridge is a National Historical Landmark. The purpose of the project was to restore pedestrian and park uses to Balboa Park's Central Mesa and to alleviate vehicle and pedestrian conflicts. A new bridge, 'Centennial Bridge,' would connect the eastern end of Cabrillo Bridge to the western side of the Alcazar parking lot. From that point a new 'Centennial Road' would traverse through the Alcazar parking lot exiting to the east, continue to the south past a new Organ Pavilion [underground] parking structure and then connect to Presidents Way. Additional parkland would be provided atop the new parking structure. A tram would provide service from the parking structure to the Plaza de Panama with possible expansion to serve other areas of the Park. Excavation activities required for construction of the underground parking structure would require that the project dispose of excess soils within the inactive Arizona Street Landfill." Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) appealed a judgment denying its petition for writ of mandamus challenging the approval by the City of an environmental impact report (EIR) addendum for revisions to the project. SOHO contended the City's approval of the addendum violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in two respects: (1) CEQA Guidelines section 15164 was invalid because CEQA contained no authority for the addendum process and the addendum process conflicted with CEQA's public review requirements; and (2) the City approved the project revisions without making new findings under section 21081. The Court of Appeal concluded SOHO did not meet its burden of establishing the addendum process was invalid. Furthermore, the Court concluded the City was not required to make findings under section 21081. View "Save Our Heritage Organisation v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The city approved an agreement with PG&E which authorized and imposed conditions on the removal of up to 272 trees within its local natural gas pipeline rights-of-way. The staff report stated that the removal of protected trees constituted a Major Tree Removal Project, requiring tree removal permits and mitigation. PG&E was willing to provide requested information and applicable mitigation but claimed that an exemption from obtaining any discretionary permits. The city agreed to process the project under Lafayette Municipal Code section 6-1705(b)(S), which allows the city to allow removal of a protected tree “to protect the health, safety and general welfare of the community.” The trial court dismissed a challenge. The court of appeal reversed in part. Claims asserted under the planning and zoning law (Government Code 65000), the city’s general plan, and the city’s tree protection ordinance are barred by Government Code 65009(c)(1)(E), as not timely-served. The statute requires that an action challenging a decision regarding a zoning permit be filed and served within 90 days of the decision; the original petition was timely filed on June 26, 2017, but was not served until after the 90-day deadline. The claim under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, 21000) was timely filed and served under Public Resources Code 21167(a) and 21167.6(a). View "Save Lafayette Trees v. City of Lafayette" on Justia Law

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When a lease of federal lands includes an option to extend its term and the tax assessor reasonably concludes that the option will likely be exercised, the value of the leasehold interest is properly based on the extended term. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of dismissal entered after the trial court sustained without leave to amend the County's demurrer to Glovis's complaint for refund of property taxes. The court held that the terms of the lease evidenced the parties' mutual intent to grant Glovis the option to extend its possession of the Navy's property past the initial five-year term; the lease clearly and explicitly gave Glovis the exclusive right to lease the Navy's property under 2028; and there was no language permitting the Navy to withdraw or revoke its offer. The court independently reviewed whether to use extrinsic evidence to interpret the lease and held that there was no need to do so in this case. Finally, the court rejected Glovis's contention that the assessor erred when he determined it was reasonable to assume the option will be exercised. View "Glovis America, Inc. v. County of Ventura" on Justia Law

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Tri Palms Unified Owners Association (the Association) was a group of homeowners in the Tri-Palms Estates. There was a recreation facility adjacent to the Tri-Palms Estates, and homeowners paid a fee for that recreation facility. In 2014, in bankruptcy proceedings, Kort & Scott Financial Group, LLC (K&S) was the successful bidder on the recreation facility. The Association entered into a settlement agreement with K&S. As a result of the Agreement, some members of the Association were required to pay an increased fee for the recreation facility. In 2016, Alex Cheveldave and Richard Davis, who were members of the Association, sued the Association, K&S, and Shenandoah Ventures, L.P., arguing that the Association did not have standing to enter into the Agreement. The Association filed an anti-SLAPP motion which the trial court granted. Cheveldave argued on appeal of that judgment the trial court erred by granting the anti-SLAPP motion. After review of the trial court record, the Court of Appeal determined Cheveldave established his case had "minimal merit," and the trial court erred by granting the anti-SLAPP motion. View "Cheveldave v. Tri Palms Unified Owners Assn." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants The Inland Oversight Committee (IOC), CREED-21, and Highland Hills Homeowners Association (HOA) filed the underlying lawsuit in 2015, contending that proposed changes to a Highland Hills development project violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and certain provisions of the Water Code. Real party in interest and respondent First American Title Insurance Company (First American) was the developer that proposed the changes at issue. Defendant-respondent City of San Bernardino (the City) approved the changes under an expedited procedure for minor modifications. The expedited procedure was incorporated into a stipulated judgment in a previous lawsuit regarding the development brought by HOA against the City and the former developer (First American’s predecessor in interest) concerning the development. This case was the second appeal regarding the same proposed changes. In a related but separate lawsuit, HOA challenged the trial court’s order confirming that the proposed changes constituted minor modifications appropriately approved under the above-mentioned expedited procedure. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order. Now in this case, plaintiffs appealed judgment entered against them after the trial court sustained without leave to amend the City’s and First American’s demurrer to plaintiffs’ first amended petition for writ of mandate and complaint. Applying the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, the trial court found that plaintiffs’ CEQA claims were barred by the preclusive effect of HOA’s previous lawsuit, and that judicially noticeable documents showed the City did not violate the Water Code. Finding no reversible error to that judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "The Inland Oversight Committee v. City of San Bernardino" on Justia Law