Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Joseph and Monique Howeth’s home shared a driveway with their neighbor Tina Coffelt’s. After the parties were unable to amicably share the driveway in accordance with an easement governing its use, the Howeths sued Coffelt, seeking injunctive relief. The parties ultimately reached a settlement agreement, which included a stipulation to the entry of judgment to resolve the lawsuit. The agreement also purported to allow the parties to seek a $1,000 fine in court if the other neighbor refused to comply with the agreement. When Coffelt allegedly began to ignore the agreement's restrictions on the use of the driveway, the Howeths filed a postjudgment motion seeking an "interim judgment" awarding them $12,000 in fines, plus attorney fees. The trial court denied the motion, finding that it did not have continuing jurisdiction to consider the motion and directed the Howeths to file a new lawsuit for breach of contract. The Howeths appealed, arguing the trial court had continuing jurisdiction to enforce the stipulated judgment and erred in denying the motion. The Court of Appeal concluded the judgment at issue here was a consent judgment, entered pursuant to a settlement agreement and a stipulation for judgment based on that agreement. Consent judgments are not appealable. The Court of Appeal determined that the Howeths did not attempt to enforce the judgment that resulted from the agreement between the parties, instead seeking to determine whether Coffelt had breached the agreement. Thus, the Court surmised, the order denying the Howeths’ motion was not appealable after judgment, and the appeal had to be dismissed. View "Howeth v. Coffelt" on Justia Law

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Wife and Husband both appealed from the trial court's postjudgment orders enforcing one of the terms of the parties' stipulated judgment, which required an equalization payment from Husband to Wife following a joint appraisal of certain real property. The Court of Appeal agreed with wife's claims that the trial court erred in awarding interest on that payment from the date of the trial court's ruling rather than the date the payment was due, about 19 months earlier. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's orders only with respect to the date when interest on the equalization payment began to accrue. View "Dalgleish v. Selvaggio" on Justia Law

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Appellants Ralphs Grocery Company and related subsidiaries (Ralphs) appealed an order striking their complaint against respondents Victory Consultants, Inc. (Victory) and Jerry Mailhot under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP law). Appellants contended the superior court erred in determining their complaint, which alleged a cause of action for trespass, arose out of activity protected by the anti-SLAPP law, and by concluding they failed to demonstrate a probability of succeeding on the merits of that cause of action. After review of the complaint, the Court of Appeal agreed with Appellants: respondents have not shown Appellants' cause of action for trespass arises out of protected activity. The acts constituting trespass were not protected activity. Although Respondents argued that Appellants were suing them based upon petitioning activity, which would typically be protected, such activity was occurring on private property. “Respondents have provided no persuasive argument that their activity occurring on such private property is protected. Additionally, even if we were to reach the second question under an anti-SLAPP analysis, we would conclude Appellants carried their minimal burden of showing a probability of succeeding on the merits.” The Court, therefore, reversed the order. View "Ralphs Grocery Co. v. Victory Consultants, Inc." on Justia Law

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Tammy Fernandes successfully sued vexatious litigant Raj Singh and his wife Kiran Rawat individually and as trustees of the Sita Ram (or “Sitaram”) Trust, for wrongful eviction and related claims. She obtained an award of compensatory and punitive damages, as well as costs and attorney fees. All defendants filed a joint notice of appeal through counsel. While Rawat and the Trust remained represented by counsel on appeal, Singh represented himself. On appeal, Rawat claimed the trial court erred in denying her motion to vacate the judgment based on lack of service, and attacked the punitive damage award. Singh also challenged the punitive damage award, disputed service on Rawat, and contended the attorney fee award was excessive. Finding no merit in defendants’ claims, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Fernandes v. Singh" on Justia Law

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Appellants Gordon and Donna Runyon were once married. In 2010, respondent Comerica Bank (Comerica) obtained a joint and several judgment for breach of guaranty against Gordon and some other defendants. Gordon and Donna then divorced, the other judgment debtors settled with Comerica, and post-divorce, Comerica obtained an order to show cause why real property that was formerly community property but then owned as separate property by Donna, should not be sold to satisfy the remaining debt owing on the judgment. Donna and other debtors each paid certain sums, and eventually the judgment was satisfied in full. Gordon filed an application for order of contribution contending he paid more than his proportional share of the judgment through his community property interests. He requested contribution from the cojudgment debtors. The court denied the motion on grounds the application failed to demonstrate it was timely filed. In this appeal, Gordon argued he satisfied the requirements of Code of Civil Procedure sections 881 through 883 under which he sought contribution, because when his application was heard Comerica had not yet filed a satisfaction of judgment and therefore it was timely filed. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed and reversed as to Gordon. However, the Court found Donna lacked standing, so her appeal was dismissed. View "Comerica Bank v. Runyon" on Justia Law

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Defendants-respondents the City of Davis (City) and the City Council of the City of Davis (City Council) approved a conditional use permit authorizing the use of a single family home in a residential zoning district as professional office space for three therapists. Petitioner-appellant and next door neighbor Michael Harrington, filed a petition for an administrative writ of mandate asking the trial court to set aside the conditional use permit. The trial court denied the petition. Harrington appealed, arguing: (1) the conditional use permit violated an ordinance prohibiting parking in the front yard setback; (2) the issuance of the conditional use permit resulted in a change in occupancy triggering accessible parking requirements under the California Building Standards Code (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 24, pt. 2); (3) the conditional use permit contemplated alterations triggering the accessible parking requirements; (4) the City Council failed to make sufficient findings to support a conclusion that compliance with accessible parking requirements would be technically infeasible, and the findings are not supported by substantial evidence; and (5) the City Council failed to make sufficient findings to support a conclusion that the permitted use is consistent with the zoning designation, and the findings are not supported by substantial evidence. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded: (1) the conditional use permit did not require parking in the front yard setback; (2) the City’s reasonable construction of the Building Code is entitled to deference, and its determination that the issuance of the conditional use permit did not result in a change in occupancy is supported by substantial evidence; (3) Harrington forfeited the argument that the conditional use permit contemplated alterations within the meaning of the Building Code; (4) technical infeasibility findings were not necessary, as the City Council did not rely on that theory; and (5) the City Council’s consistency findings were legally sufficient and supported by substantial evidence. View "Harrington v. City of Davis" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Council of California (Government Code 70321) prepared an environmental impact report (EIR, California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, 21000)) in connection with the consolidation of El Dorado County courthouse operations from two buildings, one of which is a historic building in downtown Placerville, into a single new building on the city’s outskirts, less than two miles away. Although the draft EIR addressed the possible economic impact of moving judicial activities from the downtown courthouse, it concluded the impact was not likely to be severe enough to cause urban decay in downtown Placerville. The League contended this conclusion was not supported by substantial evidence, given the importance of the courthouse to downtown commerce. The trial court and court of appeal upheld certification of the EIR. The court noted that the new construction will not result in a competitor to siphon business from downtown, but will leave behind a building that can be filled with other activities producing a level of commerce similar to that removed by the relocation, thereby mitigating the impact of the relocation. There was substantial evidence to support the draft EIR’s conclusion that urban decay is not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the project. View "Placerville Historic Preservation League v. Judicial Council of California" on Justia Law

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The 7,517-square-foot lot, on the south side of Telegraph Hill bordering the Filbert Street steps, was unimproved except for a small uninhabitable 1906 cottage. Four other buildings were demolished in 1997. The developers intend to restore the existing 1.000-square-foot cottage and build a three-story over basement building with three units ranging from 3,700-4,200 square feet apiece. A new curb cut along Telegraph Boulevard will provide access to a basement with three off-street parking spaces. The front of the building, bordering the Filbert Street steps, is designed to appear as three separate single-family homes, each below the 40-foot height limit as they step down the hill. The San Francisco Planning Department determined the project was statutorily exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code, 21000 (CEQA), because it fell within classes of projects that were determined not to have significant effects on the environment: restoration or rehabilitation of deteriorated structures; a residential structure totaling no more than four dwelling units. The Planning Commission approved a conditional use authorization. The Board of Supervisors, superior court, and court of appeal upheld the approvals. No CEQA review was necessary because the project was categorically exempt from review and no unusual circumstances exist to override the exemptions on the basis the project will have a significant effect on the environment. View "Protect Telegraph Hill v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Vallejo’s zoning code does not recognize medical marijuana dispensaries as a permitted land use. An unpermitted use is “a public nuisance.” Vallejo recently adopted Ordinance No. 1715 granting limited immunity to medical marijuana dispensaries that meet various requirements, including the past payment of local business taxes. NCORP4, a nonprofit corporation, operates a Vallejo medical marijuana dispensary. Vallejo denied NCORP4’s application for limited immunity for failure to pay taxes, among other reasons, but the dispensary continues to operate. The city sought to enjoin the dispensary as a public nuisance. The trial court denied the city a preliminary injunction, concluding that the ordinance improperly conditioned immunity upon past payment of business taxes. The court of appeal reversed. State law permitting medicinal marijuana use and distribution does not preempt “the authority of California cities and counties, under their traditional land use and police powers, to allow, restrict, limit, or entirely exclude facilities that distribute medical marijuana, and to enforce such policies by nuisance actions.” Local governments may rationally limit medical marijuana dispensaries to those already in operation and compliant with prior law as past compliance shows a willingness to follow the law, which suggests future lawful behavior. View "City of Vallejo v. NCORP4, Inc." on Justia Law

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RSB purchased a vineyard jointly owned by the defendants, including a residence that defendants had renovated and converted into a wine tasting room. RSB later learned that the renovated residence was structurally unsound for commercial use and was forced to demolish it. In response to RSB’s lawsuit claiming misrepresentations and omissions in connection with the sale of the residence, defendants moved for summary judgment, offering evidence they had no knowledge of the buildings' deficiencies. While RSB provided no evidence to suggest defendants had actual knowledge of the problems, it did demonstrate that the deficiencies were so severe that defendants’ construction professionals should have been aware of them and argued that this knowledge was imputed to defendants. The trial court granted summary judgment, reasoning that defendants could not be held liable for nondisclosure in the absence of evidence they had actual knowledge. The court of appeal affirmed. That a property is being used for a particular activity does not necessarily imply that the property satisfies all regulatory requirements for the activity. In any event, a cause of action for misrepresentation requires an affirmative statement, not an implied assertion. View "RSB Vineyards, LLC v. Orsi" on Justia Law