Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Wife moved out of the couple's joint tenancy property and sought dissolution of marriage. The summons included an automatic Family Code section 2040 order, prohibiting the parties from transferring property without the other party's written consent or court order. "Before .... a right of survivorship to property can be eliminated, notice of the change must be filed and served on the other party.” WIfe subsequently created a Trust, naming Raney, as the trustee and the sole beneficiary upon her death. Wife recorded a Deed, stating that she severed the joint tenancy pursuant to Civil Code 683.2; it transferred her interest to Raney, as trustee. Wife notified Husband that she had terminated the joint tenancy. Raney, as trustee, sought partition by sale. Meanwhile, Wife died. The court of appeal affirmed that severance of the joint tenancy substantially complied with the notice requirement but that the transfer to the Trust violated the automatic restraining order. It reformed the Deed to severing the joint tenancy only, concluding that Raney, as personal representative of Wife's estate, is the owner of an undivided one-half interest and entitled to an order of partition by sale. Parties to pending dissolution proceedings are restrained from unilaterally eliminating a right of survivorship unless, in addition to the general. When the Partition Complaint was filed and served on Husband, Wife’s severance of the joint tenancy became effective to eliminate the right of survivorship. When WIfe died, her tenancy in common interest was her separate property and became part of her estate. View "Raney v. Cerkueira" on Justia Law

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California case law establishes that "lawful possession" simply means actual, peaceful possession and a person with actual possession can sue for trespass even if he or she does not have any legal rights in the land. After plaintiff transferred the real property at issue to a custodian for the benefit of his minor daughter under the California Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, he maintained possession and control of the real property for his own use and benefit, rather than the use and benefit of his daughter. The trial court found that plaintiff's actions were not consistent with the statute and he had no right of lawful possession in the real property. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that plaintiff's failure to comply with the Act did not render his possession of the real property unlawful for purposes of California trespass law. In this case, the general definition of lawful possession applies because, among other things, nothing in the text of the statute or the record supported the inference that the legislation was enacted to protect trespassers or otherwise define who could pursue a cause of action for trespass. Therefore, the court held that the trial court's explicit findings about plaintiff's possession and control were sufficient to establish the lawful possession element of his trespass claim. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Veiseh v. Stapp" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Stanley Jozefowicz owned a mobilehome that was damaged in a fire. At the time, Jozefowicz’s mobilehome was insured under an Allstate homeowners policy. Jozefowicz submitted a claim to Allstate for the fire damage and retained Sunny Hills Restoration (Sunny Hills) to perform cleanup, repairs, and remediation of the mobile home. He told his insurer, defendant Allstate Insurance Company (Allstate), that Sunny Hills was to be named on all reimbursement checks and was permitted to deposit checks into its own account. The contractor then contacted Allstate for a check, Allstate sent it, and the contractor deposited it. At some point, Jozefowicz and the contractor were having a dispute over the scope and quality of the work. Jozefowicz sued Allstate under California Uniform Commercial Code section 3309, which provided a cause of action on a negotiable instrument where the payee has lost possession of the instrument. Allstate moved for summary judgment, contending section 3309 did not apply because Jozefowicz permitted Allstate to issue checks to the contractor. The trial court agreed. As did the Court of Appeals, which affirmed. View "Jozefowicz v. Allstate Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Kahan purchased property in Richmond at a foreclosure sale. Shortly before the sale, the city had recorded a “special assessment” lien against the property for unpaid garbage collection fees, pursuant to a municipal ordinance. When Kahan sold the property, he had to pay the delinquent garbage fees plus administrative charges and escrow fees to obtain a release of the lien. Kahan filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the city has no authority to levy “special assessments” for garbage collection charges that are “user fees” under state law and that the ordinance purporting to authorize such assessments violates state laws on lien priority. He also argued that the city’s action violated its ordinance because a garbage lien may not attach if a “bona fide encumbrancer for value” has placed a lien on the property before the garbage lien is recorded. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Treatment of delinquent garbage fees as a special assessment and the recording of a lien are expressly authorized by Government Code 25831, even if garbage fees are user fees. Government Code sections 25831 and 38790.1 expressly authorize the super-priority status accorded the garbage lien, so the ordinance is consistent with statutory lien priority law. The bona fide encumbrancer exception does not apply. View "Kahan v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law

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Yolanda Astorga-Lider pled guilty to six felony counts, including two counts of violating Penal Code section 115 (a). One of those counts, grand theft (count 6), involved Astorga-Lider encumbering certain real property, purchased by Nohemi and Jose Lorenzana with a fraudulent deed of trust. The subject deed of trust listed Sunil Deo as the lender. The Lorenzanas could not afford to buy a home. Astorga-Lider suggested a plan to the Lorenzanas and Nicolas and Elizabeth Corral, which would allow the Lorenzanas to purchase a home. The Corrals could obtain a $350,000 real estate loan, borrow against rental property they owned, and give the loan proceeds to the Lorenzanas. In turn, the Lorenzanas could use the proceeds to buy a home while making payments on the $350,000 loan. The Lorenzanas finalized what they believed to be an all-cash purchase of a house. Astorga-Lider accompanied the Lorenzanas to the bank and provided the transfer information to the bank. Unbeknownst to the Lorenzanas, the account number Astorga-Lider provided the bank was for an account that she controlled and used to funnel stolen funds from multiple fraudulent loans. After Astorga-Lider's guilty plea, the State moved, under section 115 (e), for an order declaring certain record instruments void, including the deed of trust listing Deo as the lender (Deo Deed of Trust). After multiple rounds of briefing, the superior court granted the motion. In doing so, the court found the Deo Deed of Trust void. Deo appealed the order declaring the Deo Deed of Trust void, contending the State's motion was procedurally improper; the Deo Deed of Trust was not a false or forged document under section 115; at most, the Deo Deed of Trust was voidable, not void; civil court, not criminal court, was the appropriate forum for adjudication of the validity of the Deo Deed of Trust; Deo's due process rights were been violated; and the order voiding the Deo Deed of Trust constituted an unlawful taking. The Court of Appeal concluded Deo's arguments were without merit and affirmed. View "California v. Astorga-Lider" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of administrative mandamus, challenging both the Board's tree removal order and the cessation of his water deliveries. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of the petition, holding that the trial court applied the correct substantial evidence standard of review for the administrative decision; substantial evidence supported a finding that plaintiff unreasonably interfered with TID's use of the easement at issue; and TID did not abuse its discretion in withholding plaintiff's irrigation water under its irrigation rules. View "Inzana v. Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors" on Justia Law

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The Mitigation Fee Act (Gov. Code 66000) authorizes local agencies to impose fees on development projects to defray the cost of public facilities needed to serve the growth caused by the project if the fees are reasonably related to the burden caused by the development. Boatworks challenged Alameda's development fee ordinance. The trial court concluded the fees are excessive and constitute invalid exactions by imposing on new residents the purported cost of acquiring land for parks, although the city does not need to buy new parkland, and found that the city erred by including in its inventory of current parks two parks that were not yet open and by categorizing certain areas as parks rather than (less expensive) open space. The court of appeal reversed in part, holding that the city can properly include Shoreline Park, Osborne Model Airplane Field and two boat ramps in its inventory of parks. With respect to development fees for parks and recreation, the court stated that a fee based in significant part on costs the city will not incur, because it has already acquired ample land at no cost, does not have a “reasonable relationship to the cost of the public facility attributable to the development.” View "Boatworks, LLC v. Alameda" on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs filed suit against the Association and property manager for breach of contract and negligence, the trial court granted a nonsuit. Plaintiffs settled with the property manager but appealed against the association. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of a nonsuit on the breach of contract claim where reasonable jurors could have concluded a total failure to maintain common areas breached a promise to keep these areas in first class condition and a jury could also find that buildings need maintenance to remain in first class condition. Furthermore, the trial court erred by adding oral reasoning beyond the contents of the nonsuit motion, and neither the motion nor the trial court's rationale challenged the idea that covenants, conditions, and restrictions comprise a contract between the association and individual owners. Nor did the motion or rationale hint at the rule of deference governing owner suits against homeowner associations. The court affirmed the nonsuit tort judgment and held that the association had no independent duty as to the pipes and roof arising from tort law. View "Sands v. Walnut Gardens Condominium Assn." on Justia Law

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Appellant prevailed against respondents on causes of action that included fraud, conversion of property, and treble damages under Penal Code section 496. At issue on appeal, was the section 496 causes of action. In this case, even though the jury returned a special verdict that found respondents violated section 496(a), the trial court declined to award treble damages to plaintiff under the statute. The Court of Appeal held that section 496 is clear and unambiguous, and its remedial provisions should be applied where, as here, a clear violation of section 496(a) has been found. Therefore, the court reversed in part and remanded for the trial court to enter a modified judgment that includes treble damages on the section 496 causes of action. The court also reversed the trial court's denial of plaintiff's motion for attorney fees premised on section 496(c) and remanded. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "Switzer v. Wood" on Justia Law

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The Taniguchis obtained a $510,500 home loan, secured by a deed of trust. A 2009 loan modification reduced their monthly payments and deferred until the loan's maturity approximately $116,000 of indebtedness. The modification provided that failure to make modified payments as scheduled would be default so that the modification would be void at the lender’s option. The modification left unchanged the original acceleration clauses and power of sale. The Taniguchis defaulted on the modified loan and were informed that to avoid foreclosure, they would have to pay their four missed payments and associated late charges, foreclosure fees and costs, plus all sums deferred under the modification (about $120,000 in principal, interest and charges). The Taniguchis filed suit. Restoration recorded a notice of trustee’s sale. The Taniguchis obtained a temporary restraining order. The Taniguchis alleged violations of Civil Code section 2924c by demanding excessive amounts to reinstate the loan, unfair competition, breach of contract, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Restoration. The court of appeal vacated in part. When principal comes due because of a default, section 2924c allows a borrower to cure that default and reinstate the loan by paying the default amount plus fees and expenses. Section 2924c gives the Taniguchis the opportunity to cure by paying the missed modified payments and avoid the demand for immediate payment of the deferred amounts. Nothing in the loan modification suggests that the Taniguchis forfeited that opportunity; section 2924c does not indicate that a forfeiture would be enforceable. View "Taniguchi v. Restoration Homes, LLC" on Justia Law