Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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The term "invasion of the right of private occupancy" is ambiguous and may include non-physical invasions of rights in real property. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the umbrella insurer in an action alleging claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In this case, the personal injury provision of plaintiff's umbrella policy potentially covered the allegations in the underlying action and the umbrella insurer breached its duty to defend by not providing plaintiff with a defense. Accordingly, the court vacated the trial court's order and directed the trial court to enter a new order granting the motion. View "Albert v. Truck Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law

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A successor trustee filed suit against defendants, alleging claims arising from an allegedly void assignment of a deed of trust on certain real property and a failed short sale agreement. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly sustained the demurrers to all causes of action, but abused its discretion in denying leave to amend. In this case, the trustee has proposed facts sufficient to show that the assignment at issue was void. Accordingly, the court reversed and directed the trial court to grant the trustee leave to amend the complaint. View "Hacker v. Homeward Residential, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion had sought to strike the first three causes of action of the third amended complaint in their entirety and, alternatively, to strike a number of specific allegations. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism was the sublessor and plaintiff-respondent Newport Harbor Offices & Marina, LLC (NHOM) was the sublessee of real property in Newport Beach. This case was the fourth appeal and the third anti-SLAPP appeal arising out of the sublease and related agreements, business dealings, and disputes. The California Supreme Court, in Baral v. Schnitt, 1 Cal.5th 376 (2016), held a special motion to strike under the California anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (section 425.16), could be directed to specific allegations of protected activity constituting a claim for relief within a pleaded count that also includes allegations of unprotected activity. Based on Baral, defendants-appellants Morris Cerullo World Evangelism (Cerullo), Plaza del Sol Real Estate Trust (Plaza del Sol) and Roger Artz (collectively Defendants) asserted the trial court erred in denying their anti-SLAPP motion. The Court of Appeal applied Baral and its summary of anti-SLAPP procedures and concluded: (1) many, but not all, of the allegations challenged by Defendants in their anti-SLAPP motion were of protected activity within the meaning of section 425.16(e); and (2) NHOM did not meet its burden of establishing a probability of prevailing on the claims that are based on the allegations of protected activity. The Court therefore reversed, in part, and remanded with directions to grant the anti-SLAPP motion as to the paragraphs of the third amended complaint identified in the Disposition. The Court affirmed in part because, among other things, the bulk of the paragraphs which were the subject of Defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion did not arise out of protected activity. View "Newport Harbor Offices & Marina, LLC v. Morris Cerullo etc." on Justia Law

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In 2005, plaintiffs Randy and Linda Tindell bought a single family manufactured home from defendant Linda Murphy for $320,000. Defendant Christine Bradley provided the appraisal. In 2009 the Tindells were unable to refinance the mortgage because it was a manufactured home, not a modular home. The Tindells filed an amended complaint alleging Murphy and Bradley failed to disclose defects in the property and acted in concert with others in order to conceal these defects and profit from the sale of the property. The trial court sustained Murphy’s demurrer without leave to amend. Subsequently, the court granted Bradley’s motion for summary judgment. The Tindells appealed, challenging the court’s sustaining of Murphy’s demurrer and the granting of Bradley’s summary judgment. After review, the Court of Appeal found no reversible error in those judgments, and affirmed the trial court. View "Tindell v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-homeowners alleged the copper piping in their homes was damaged by a chemical the defendant water districts added to tap water. Adding the chemical was authorized by regulation, however, and it was undisputed that the water districts complied with all statutory and regulatory standards. After a bifurcated bench trial on certain legal issues, the trial court entered judgment for the water districts, finding plaintiffs’ causes of action for nuisance and inverse condemnation were preempted by federal and state laws, and otherwise insufficient on the merits. The plaintiff homeowners appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded plaintiffs’ causes of action failed on the merits, and thus affirmed. View "Williams v. Moulton Niguel Water Dist." on Justia Law

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An interest in land that is functionally equivalent to ownership may be acquired by adverse possession, but not as a prescriptive easement. This appeal concerned a dispute between Erik Hansen and his relatives and Sandridge Partners over 10 acres of land. The Court of Appeal held that the Hansens were not entitled to an equitable easement over the disputed lands because the Hansens' encroachment on Sandridge's land was negligent as a matter of law. In this case, the Hansens negligently encroached on the disputed land when they planted pistachio trees and installed an irrigation system; Sandridge was not contributorily negligent in causing the encroachment; and the Hansens were not entitled to the prescriptive easement they seek. Therefore, the elements of adverse possession were not satisfied in this case and the trial court properly rejected the Hansens' claim. View "Hansen v. Sandridge Partners" on Justia Law

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Before San Francisco Ordinance 286-13 was adopted in 2013, the Planning Code generally prohibited the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of “nonconforming units,” which are legal residential housing units that exceed the currently-permitted density for the zoning district in which they are located. The 2013 amendment permits the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of nonconforming residential units in zoning districts where residential use is principally permitted, if the changes do not extend beyond the “building envelope” as it existed on January 1, 2013. A waiting period of five to 10 years applies for changes to units where a tenant has been evicted employing Administrative Code grounds for evicting a non-faulting tenant, including section 37.9(a)(13), which allows an owner to evict tenants to remove residential units from the rental market in accordance with the Ellis Act. The Ellis Act prohibits local governments from “compel[ling] the owner of any residential real property to offer, or to continue to offer accommodations in the property for rent or lease.” Gov. Code 7060(a). The trial court upheld the amendment. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the ordinance is preempted by the Ellis Act because it requires an owner who exercises Ellis Act rights to wait years before being eligible for a permit to make alterations. View "Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Before San Francisco Ordinance 286-13 was adopted in 2013, the Planning Code generally prohibited the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of “nonconforming units,” which are legal residential housing units that exceed the currently-permitted density for the zoning district in which they are located. The 2013 amendment permits the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of nonconforming residential units in zoning districts where residential use is principally permitted, if the changes do not extend beyond the “building envelope” as it existed on January 1, 2013. A waiting period of five to 10 years applies for changes to units where a tenant has been evicted employing Administrative Code grounds for evicting a non-faulting tenant, including section 37.9(a)(13), which allows an owner to evict tenants to remove residential units from the rental market in accordance with the Ellis Act. The Ellis Act prohibits local governments from “compel[ling] the owner of any residential real property to offer, or to continue to offer accommodations in the property for rent or lease.” Gov. Code 7060(a). The trial court upheld the amendment. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the ordinance is preempted by the Ellis Act because it requires an owner who exercises Ellis Act rights to wait years before being eligible for a permit to make alterations. View "Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff 1901 First Street Owner, LLC (First Street), appealed a judgment which interpreted the meaning and application of Government Code section 65995 (b)(1), in a manner favorable to defendant Tustin Unified School District (the District). First Street developed an apartment complex. The underlying dispute arose after the City of Santa Ana (the City) had calculated the square footage of the development for purposes of assessing a school impact fee. The District disputed the City’s method of calculating the assessable space and filed an administrative appeal. Before that appeal was resolved, the City revised its calculation in the District’s favor, prompting First Street to file an administrative appeal. First Street prevailed in its administrative appeal and subsequently filed the present lawsuit against the District, alleging various tort causes of action and seeking declaratory relief and a writ of mandate ordering the District to refund the excess school fees. The court dismissed the tort claims pursuant to an anti-SLAPP motion, which the Court of Appeal affirmed in a separate appeal. The case proceeded on the declaratory relief claim and writ petition, as well as a cross-complaint by the District for an administrative writ of mandate. The court found in favor of the District, and First Street appealed. At issue was whether the square footage of interior space outside the individual apartment units should have been included in the calculation of school impact fees. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in favor of the District. View "1901 First Street Owner v. Tustin Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff 1901 First Street Owner, LLC (First Street), appealed a judgment which interpreted the meaning and application of Government Code section 65995 (b)(1), in a manner favorable to defendant Tustin Unified School District (the District). First Street developed an apartment complex. The underlying dispute arose after the City of Santa Ana (the City) had calculated the square footage of the development for purposes of assessing a school impact fee. The District disputed the City’s method of calculating the assessable space and filed an administrative appeal. Before that appeal was resolved, the City revised its calculation in the District’s favor, prompting First Street to file an administrative appeal. First Street prevailed in its administrative appeal and subsequently filed the present lawsuit against the District, alleging various tort causes of action and seeking declaratory relief and a writ of mandate ordering the District to refund the excess school fees. The court dismissed the tort claims pursuant to an anti-SLAPP motion, which the Court of Appeal affirmed in a separate appeal. The case proceeded on the declaratory relief claim and writ petition, as well as a cross-complaint by the District for an administrative writ of mandate. The court found in favor of the District, and First Street appealed. At issue was whether the square footage of interior space outside the individual apartment units should have been included in the calculation of school impact fees. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in favor of the District. View "1901 First Street Owner v. Tustin Unified School District" on Justia Law