Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California

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Cal. Civ. Code 1009(b), which limits the circumstances in which courts may find implied dedication of private coastal property, applies to property used by the public for nonrecreational vehicle access, as well as property used for recreational purposes. Plaintiffs filed this action seeking a declaration that their neighbors, private owners of noncoastal property, had acquiesced to the dedication of two roadways, which crossed the neighbors’ land, as public roadways. The trial court agreed, concluding that the neighbors or their predecessors had impliedly offered to dedicate the roadways to public use. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that section 1009, subdivision (b) bars all public use, not just recreational use, from developing into an implied public dedication. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 1009, subdivision (b) contains no implicit exception for nonrecreational use of roadways. View "Scher v. Burke" on Justia Law

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An individual’s standing to sue under Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 526a does not require the payment of a property tax, as an allegation that the plaintiff has paid an assessed tax to the defendant locality is sufficient under section 526a. The trial court filed a stipulated order and judgment of dismissal dismissing for lack of standing Plaintiff’s complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the manner in which the City of San Rafael and County of Marin enforced Cal. Veh. Code 14602.6. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that an individual plaintiff must be liable to pay a property tax within the relevant locality, or have paid a property tax during the previous year, to have standing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeal erred when it held that payment of a property tax was required under section 526a. View "Weatherford v. City of San Rafael" on Justia Law

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When an assessment on nonexempt property is challenged on the ground that the taxpayer does not own the property involved, the taxpayer must seek an assessment reduction through the assessment appeal process before the county board of equalization or a county assessment appeals board or obtain a stipulation under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 5142(b) that such proceedings are unnecessary in order to maintain a postpayment superior court action under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 5140 that seeks reduction of the tax. The Supreme Court overruled Parr-Richmond Industrial Corp. v. Boyd 43 Cal.2d 157 (1954) to the extent that the decision provides otherwise. Because this holding operates only prospectively, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal in this action where Plaintiffs brought timely assessment appeal proceedings under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 1603 (a). The court of appeal held that “where, as here, the taxpayer claims [an] assessment is void because the taxpayer does not own the [assessed] property, the taxpayer is not required to apply for an assessment reduction under section 1603, subdivision (a) to exhaust its administrative remedies.” View "Williams & Fickett v. County of Fresno" on Justia Law

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This California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) dispute centered on whether an environmental impact report (EIR) must identify areas that might qualify as environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHA) under the California Coastal Act and account for those areas in its analysis of mitigation measures and project alternatives. The City of Newport Beach approved a project for the development of a parcel known as Banning Beach. Banning Ranch Conservancy (BRC) sought a writ of mandate to set aside the approval, alleging (1) the EIR was inadequate, and (2) the City violated a general plan provision by failing to work with the California Coastal Commission to identify wetlands and habitats. The trial court found the EIR sufficient but concluded that the general plan required the City to cooperate with the Coastal Commission before approving the project. The Court of Appeal (1) agreed that the EIR complied with CEQA requirements; but (2) reversed on the general plan issue. The Supreme Court reversed and granted BRC relief on its CEQA claim, holding (1) CEQA requires an EIR to identify areas that might qualify as ESHA under the Coastal Act; and (2) the City’s failure to discuss ESHA requirements and impacts was neither insubstantial nor merely technical. View "Banning Ranch Conservancy v. City of Newport Beach" on Justia Law

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Seller retained Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Company to list a luxury residence for sale. Buyer, also represented by Coldwell Banker, made an offer to purchase the property, and both parties agreed that Coldwell Banker, acting through its associate licensee, would function as a dual agent in the transaction. After the sale was complete, Buyer filed suit alleging breach of fiduciary duty by Coldwell Banker and by the associate licensee because of a significant discrepancy between the square footage of the residence as represented in the marketing materials for the property and as set out in its building permit. The trial court granted nonsuit on the cause of action against the associate licensee, ruling that the associate licensee had no fiduciary duty to Buyer. A jury subsequently found in favor of Coldwell Banker. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment on the breach of fiduciary duty claim against the associate licensee and Coldwell Banker. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Coldwell Banker owed to Buyer a duty to learn nd disclose information regarding the discrepancy between the square footage of the residence as advertised and as reflected in publicly recorded documents; and (2) the associate licensee owed Buyer an equivalent duty of disclosure under Cal. Civ. Code. 2079.13(b). View "Horiike v. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Co." on Justia Law

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This dispute concerned a 1.66-acre strip of Defendants’ land that the City of Perris condemned in order to build a road. The City offered to pay Defendants the agricultural value of the strip, relying on City of Porterville v. Young. The trial court agreed with the City, concluding that Porterville applied in this case and that Defendants were entitled to a stipulated agricultural value of $44,000 for the taking. In so deciding, the trial judge concluded that the City’s dedication requirement was lawful under Nollan v. California Coastal Commission and Dolan v. City of Tigard. The Court of Appeal remanded the case to revisit the legality of the dedication requirement, concluding that the lawfulness of the dedication and requirement under Nollan and Dolan should have been decided by a jury, not a judge. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the constitutionality of a dedication requirement under Nollan and Dolan is a question for a court, rather than a jury; and (2) the project effect rule generally applies, and the Porterville doctrine does not apply, to situations when it is probable at the time a dedication requirement is put in place that the property designated for public use will be included in the project for which the condemnation is sought. Remanded. View "City of Perris v. Stamper" on Justia Law

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The California Department of Water Resources (Department) sought to conduct environmental and geological studies and testing on over 150 privately-owned parcels of property that the state, in the future, might seek to acquire. Proceeding through the procedure established by the California Eminent Domain Law relating to precondemnation entry and testing, the Department sought a court order granting it authority to enter the properties to undertake environmental and geological testing activities. The trial court authorized the Department to enter the private properties and conduct environmental activities but denied the Department’s request to conduct geological testing. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of the Department’s proposed geological testing and reversed the trial court’s authorization of environmental testing, concluding that the procedure established by the precondemnation entry and testing statutes did not satisfy the demands of the California Constitution’s takings clause with regard to both the geological and environmental testing sought by the Department. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, assuming, without deciding, that the environmental and geological activities amount to a taking or damaging of property, the procedure established by the precondemnation entry and testing statutes satisfies the requirements of the California takings clause when the procedure is reformed to comply with the jury trial requirement of that clause. View "Property Reserve, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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This case arose from Plaintiff’s sale of property to Defendants. In November 2006, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants alleging negligence, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and failure to follow home equity sales contract requirements. In May 2012, Fidelity National Title Insurance Company moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to bring the action to trial within the five-year time frame required by Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 583.310. The trial court dismissed the case in its entirety. In so doing, the trial court concluded that the time during which the court had vacated the trial date and ordered a 120-day stay of proceedings to permit the parties to engage in mediation did not support tolling. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court’s order did not effect a complete stay of the prosecute of the action, nor did it create a circumstance of impracticability, and therefore, the period of the “mediation stay” did not toll the five-year period. View "Gaines v. Fidelity Nat’l Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a borrower on a home loan secured by a deed of trust. The deed of trust was assigned multiple times. After Plaintiff’s home was sold at public auction, Plaintiff filed this wrongful foreclosure action alleging that the assignment of the deed of trust to the foreclosing party bore defects rendering the assignment void. The court of appeals concluded that Plaintiff could not state a cause of action for wrongful foreclosure based on the allegedly void assignment because she lacked standing to assert improprieties in the assignment where, as an unrelated third party to that assignment, Plaintiff was unaffected by such deficiencies. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a home loan borrower who has suffered a nonjudicial foreclosure has standing to sue for wrongful foreclosure based on an allegedly void assignment even though she was in default on the loan and was not a party to the challenged assignment because an allegation that the assignment was void will support an action for wrongful foreclosure. View "Yvanova v. New Century Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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Under Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 580b, when an individual borrows money from a bank to buy a home and the bank forecloses on the home, the bank can collect proceeds from the foreclosure sale but may not obtain a deficiency judgment against the borrower. In this case, a Borrower arranged a short sale of her home and sold her home to a third party for an amount that fell short of her outstanding loan balance to a Bank. The Bank then demanded the balance remaining on the Borrower’s home. The Borrower brought this declaratory action, claiming that section 580b prohibited the Bank from collecting the deficiency. The trial court sustained the Bank’s demurrer. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that section 580b’s protections apply after a short sale, not just a foreclosure. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 580b applies to short sales just as it does to foreclosure sales. View "Coker v. JPMorgan Chase Bank" on Justia Law