Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of defendants in an action involving proceeds awarded to its tenants as part of an eminent domain proceeding. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that the lease condemnation clause gave it the exclusive right to recover all moneys from any condemnation of the property and held that neither the language in the form lease nor plaintiff's arguments gave the court reason to read the lease language more expansively or as counter to Code of Civil Procedure section 1263.510. The court also held that the trial court did not err by applying the doctrine of collateral estoppel to plaintiff's claims to moneys awarded to tenants in LAUSD's eminent domain proceeding. View "Thee Aguila, Inc. v. Century Law Group" on Justia Law

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January 13, 2017, a Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department engineer inspected respondent’s property and observed inadequate and unpermitted retaining walls, one of which directed water to a single point directly above a failed 25-foot bank that had deposited five cubic yards of earth onto Riverview Drive. Unpermitted grading and terracing had contributed to bank failure and deposit of material into a nearby watercourse. On January 19, a rainstorm caused a four-foot wall of mud to slide onto Riverview Drive. Respondent moved earthen materials from the road, resulting in the runoff of materials into a local stream and on neighboring private property. Respondent believed his actions either did not require permits or were emergency measures. Respondent failed to comply with an administrative order requiring him to abate the code violations and pay abatement costs and civil penalties. Sonoma County filed suit. Respondent did not file a responsive pleading. The court entered a default judgment that ordered penalties significantly lower than ordered by the administrative hearing officer. The court of appeal reversed the order imposing civil penalties at the rate of $20 per day and directed the court to modify its judgment to require payment at $45 per day. That provision of the court’s order altered a final administrative order, was entirely unexplained, and provided respondent with a windfall he did not request. View "County of Sonoma v. Gustely" on Justia Law

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Six Flags, a Vallejo amusement park, features rides and animal attractions on 138 acres, including a ticketed interior portion with the entertainment activities and an exterior portion with an admissions area connected by walkways and streets to a paid parking lot. The property falls within the city’s “public and quasi-public facilities zoning district.” For many years, the amusement park was municipally owned but privately operated. In 2006, a federal district court recognized the constitutional right of an individual to protest at the park’s front entrance, which is public fora under California’s free speech clause. The following year, Park Management exercised its option and acquired the park from the city for $53.9 million; the city committed to retaining the park’s zoning designation. Management agreed to pay the city a percentage of annual admissions revenue. The city’s redevelopment agency agreed to finance the construction of a new parking structure on publicly owned fairgrounds for lease to Management. In 2014, Management banned all expressive activity at the park, including protests. Weeks later, people protested against the park’s treatment of animals at the front entrance area and handed out leaflets in the parking lot. The police and the district attorney declined to intervene without a court order. Management filed suit, alleging private trespass. The trial court granted Management summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed. While a long-time protestor failed to prove as a matter of law that he has acquired a common law prescriptive right to protest at the park, the exterior, unticketed areas of the amusement park are a public forum for expressive activity under California Constitution article I, section 2. View "Park Management Corp. v. In Defense of Animals" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted an injunction in favor of plaintiffs, finding that defendants violated the view protection provisions of paragraphs 1 and 11 of the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R's) applicable to the parties' neighboring properties in the Marquez Knolls section of the Pacific Palisades. The trial court then ordered removal of certain alterations and improvements made by defendants and awarded plaintiff interim damages for their loss of view. The Court of Appeal held that neither paragraph 1 nor paragraph 11 of the CC&R's restricts renovations or alternations to a previously approved residence. Furthermore, paragraph 2, which did apply to residential alterations, has long since expired. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's judgment except the portion of the judgment requiring the street-facing hedges to be trimmed to a height of three feet or under was affirmed. Therefore, the court remanded with directions for the trial court to conduct a new trial on damages. View "Eisen v. Tavangarian" on Justia Law

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Tanguilig, then 74 years old, sought a restraining order against his neighbor, Valdez, under Welfare and Institutions Code section 15657.03, alleging elder abuse. Tanguilig also sought protection for four members of his family, including his son-in-law Rutledge, all of whom lived in the same house. Tanguilig alleged that Valdez placed his trash cans in a way that blocked access to the Tanguilig driveway and that Valdez assaulted Tanguilig by spraying him with his garden hose through the fence. The court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Valdez from engaging in conduct that was abusive to Tanguilig but concluded Tanguilig had provided insufficient facts to support an order restraining Valdez from contact with others; besides family members, Tanguilig asserted that Valdez was harassing workers on his property. Valdez filed a response, denying Tanguilig’s allegations. The court, without swearing anyone in as a witness, heard from Valdez, Rutledge, and Tanguilig about what had occurred. The court found that Tanguilig had provided “reasonable proof by a preponderance of the evidence” of elder abuse and issued a three-year “no harassment” order against Valdez in favor of Tanguilig and the named family members. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments concerning the court’s consideration of statements by Rutledge; the burden of proof; and the court’s consideration, or lack of consideration, of Valdez’s “mens rea.” View "Tanguilig v. Valdez" on Justia Law

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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