Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - June 3, 2019

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Mesa RHF Partners, L.P. v. City of Los Angeles (2019) 33 Cal.App.5th 913.  This was an action in which one party sought to enforce a settlement agreement, and the action to do so was denied, with the court finding that the requirements of CCP § 664.6 have to be strictly followed in attempting to enforce a settlement agreement that was entered on the record pursuant to that section.  Among other things, the court noted that the statute requires that the parties themselves, either in writing or orally before the court, have to make a request under CCP § 664.6.

Workman v. Colichman (2019) 33 Cal.App.5th 1039.  This is a SLAPP case.  Plaintiff filed an action for intentional interference with contractual relationships along with other claims alleging that the Defendants, who were neighbors, caused the sale of Plaintiff’s house to fall through when they emailed her real estate agent and falsely claimed that the neighbors were planning to construct an addition onto their house that would interfere with the views obtained from Plaintiff’s house.  The trial court denied the SLAPP motion but also denied the Plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees which related to the denial of the Defendants’ motion.  The appellate court affirmed the denial of the SLAPP motion, but reversed on the attorney’s fees issue and also awarded the Plaintiff sanctions on appeal.  The court found that the requirements of the SLAPP motion weren’t met because the view from a private residence did not involve a matter of public concern. Attorney’s fees should have been granted because it was absurd to attempt to apply the SLAPP statute on these facts and there was significant evidence suggesting that the motion was filed for purposes of delay.  The court found the appeal to be frivolous and awarded sanctions on that basis as well.

Shoen v. Zacarias (2019) 33 Cal.App.5th 1112.  This was a dispute between neighboring property owners over the Defendant’s use of 490 square feet of ground that she mistakenly thought was part of her property and had improved before learning that it was not hers.  The court of appeal held that the trial court had abused its discretion in providing a perpetual, irrevocable license for use by the neighbor who had improved the property, because although substantial evidence existed that the prior owner of the Plaintiff’s property had expressly granted Defendant permission to use the disputed area, and that thereafter Plaintiff had acquiesced to the continuing use of the area for five or six years, that evidence did not support the court’s finding that Defendant had expended substantial amounts of money or labor in support of the license.  The granting of the license in perpetuity was also improper because the trial court should have engaged in a separate inquiry as to who would make better use of the disputed area by balancing the greater value and utility of it to Defendant, given her ready access to the area, against the lesser value and utility of the area to Plaintiff, due to her less than ready access to the area.  Using that analysis could not have resulted in an irrevocable license.

Sonoma Media Investments, LLC v. Superior Court (2019) 34 Cal.App.5th 24.  This is another SLAPP case.  A developer and the son-in-law of the developer sued the owner of a newspaper, a newspaper writer and an individual who was quoted in newspaper articles for defamation, libel per se, and invasion of privacy alleging that the articles falsely implied that the developer was a source of funds that was spent by the son-in-law in a local election.  Defendants filed a SLAPP motion.  The court of appeal found that the SLAPP motion should have been granted in full because the Plaintiffs failed to establish a probability of prevailing on the merits.  The court also found that the newspaper articles were protected under the SLAPP statute either because they were within a newspaper that was a public forum or because the articles were related to a public issue.

Summers v. Colette (2019) 34 Cal.App.5th 361.  A director of a non-profit public benefit corporation filed an action against the corporation and another director alleging breach of fiduciary duty by self-dealing, breach of charitable trust and other misconduct.  The Defendants filed a demurrer contending that the Plaintiff, who initially had standing to bring the action as Director when it was filed, lost standing when the Plaintiff was removed as a director from the Board of Directors subsequently.  The court found that the Plaintiff had retained standing under Corporations Code §§ 5142, 5223, and 5233, and subsequent removal as a director did not deprive her of standing to continue to pursue the action.  The court declined to read into the statute a continuous directorship requirement in order to obtain standing. 

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