Withdrawal of an Admission in California May Shift Costs—Including Attorneys’ Fees—Incurred in Connection with the Withdrawal

By: Tony Carucci

Under California Code of Civil Procedure section 2033.300, a court may permit a party to withdraw an admission made in response to a request for admission upon noticed motion. The court may only do so, however, “if it determines that the admission was the result of mistake, inadvertence, or excusable neglect, and that the party who obtained the admission will not be substantially prejudiced in maintaining that party’s action or defense on the merits.” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 2033.300(b). The court may also “impose conditions on the granting of the motion that are just, including, but not limited to .… Read More »

Author: acarucci | Leave a comment Tagged

Share this Article:

California Mediation Confidentiality May Apply to Third Party “Participants” Retained to Provide Analysis

By: Tony Carucci

California Evidence Code section 1119 governs the general admissibility of oral and written communications generated during the mediation process. Section 1119(a) provides that “[n]o evidence of anything said or any admission made for the purpose of, in the course of, or pursuant to, a mediation . . . is admissible or subject to discovery, and disclosure of the evidence shall not be compelled, in any . . . civil action . . . .” Cal. Evid. Code § 1119(a) (emphasis added). Similarly, section 1119(b) bars discovery or admission in evidence of any “writing . . . prepared for the purpose of, in the course of, or pursuant to, a mediation .… Read More »

Author: acarucci | Leave a comment Tagged , , , ,

Share this Article:

California Supreme Court Hands Victory to Private Property Owners Over Public Use

By:  Sean M. Sherlock

In 1970 the California Supreme Court held that, under certain circumstances, private property owners impliedly dedicate their property to the public if they permit the public to use it. Gion v. City of Santa Cruz (1970) 2 Cal.3d 29.  This holding was controversial, and the next year the California Legislature enacted Civil Code section 1009 limiting the public’s ability to permanently use private property through an implied dedication.

In the 40-plus years since then, the lower courts have wrestled with the issue of whether the statute limiting implied dedication applies only to recreational uses by the public, or also to nonrecreational uses.… Read More »

Author: Sean M. Sherlock | Leave a comment Tagged , ,

Share this Article:

Does Your 998 Offer to Compromise Include Attorneys’ Fees and Costs?

By: Anthony J. Carucci

In California, the “prevailing party” in litigation is generally entitled to recover its costs as a matter of law. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 1032. But under California Code of Civil Procedure section 998, a party may make a so-called “offer to compromise,” which can reverse the parties’ entitlement to costs after the date of the offer, depending on the outcome of the litigation. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 998. The potential payoff of a 998 offer to compromise is explained in section 998(c)(1):

If an offer made by a defendant is not accepted and the plaintiff fails to obtain a more favorable judgment or award, the plaintiff shall not recover his or her postoffer costs and shall pay the defendant’s costs from the time of the offer.

Read More »
Author: acarucci | Leave a comment Tagged ,

Share this Article:

Avoiding Lender Liability for Credit-Related Actions in California

By: Anthony J. Carucci

Aside from general statutory prohibitions on lender discrimination, there are certain circumstances under California law in which lenders may be held liable for credit-related actions, such as negotiating or denying credit. See generally 11 Cal. Real Est. § 35:3 (explaining that the business of lending money is subject to the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51 et seq., the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov. Code § 12900 et seq., the Federal Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1691, et seq.Read More »

Author: acarucci | Leave a comment Tagged , , , , ,

Share this Article:

Applying New California Rules to Your Real Estate Litigation Practice

By: Lyndsey Torp

Several new California procedural rules went into effect on January 1, 2016. While we are several months into the new year, litigators may need a reminder of these new rules.  The list below summarizes several of the notable new rules.

  • Pleading Stage
    • New California Code of Procedure section 430.41(a)(2) mandates that the parties meet and confer at least five days before filing a demurrer (California’s motion to dismiss). If the parties fail to meet and confer, the demurring party may submit a declaration to the court explaining why the meet and confer did not happen, and the demurring party is granted an automatic 30-day extension.
Read More »
Author: Lyndsey Torp | Leave a comment Tagged ,

Share this Article:

Property Taxes: A Shopping Center May Not Always be a Shopping Center

By:  Rick Herold, Craig McPike & Ben Reeves

In the world of real property taxes, Valuation + Classification = Assessed Valuation.  Sounds simple, right?  The County Assessor determines the first factor, valuation (subject to certain guidelines under applicable Arizona law).  The Arizona State Legislature determines the second factor, the property’s legal classification and corresponding assessment ratio (i.e., tax rate).  Given the wide disparity in assessment ratios, classification can be a major issue for taxpayers.

Recently, the Court of Appeals confirmed that a shopping center for valuation purposes may not be a shopping center for classification purposes.  Scottsdale/101 Associates LLC v.Read More »

Author: Richard Herold | Leave a comment Tagged , , , , ,

Share this Article:

Homebuilders Welcome Recent Court Decisions

By:  Patrick Paul

Arizona homebuilders will welcome with open arms two recent legal rulings of substantial impact to their industry. In the first decision, on July 28, 2015, in Sullivan v. Pulte Home Corp., No. 1 CA-CV 14-0199, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that homebuilders do not owe a duty of care to subsequent (non-original homeowners) for economic losses arising from latent construction defects unaccompanied by physical injury to persons or other property.

The fairly simple fact scenario follows.  In 2000, Pulte Home Corporation sold the home at issue to the original homeowners, who, in 2003, sold the property to the Sullivan Plaintiffs.  … Read More »

Author: Patrick J. Paul | Leave a comment Tagged , , ,

Share this Article:

Arizona Court Clarifies Premise Liability

By:  Kevin J. Parker

In a recent Arizona Court of Appeals case, the court clarified the rules for liability of a property owner to a person injured on the premises. In Lee v. M & H Enterprises, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (filed April 21, 2015), the Arizona Court of Appeals addressed the question whether Wal-Mart as the property owner was liable for injuries suffered by an employee of an independent contractor performing construction services on the premises. The injured person sued both Wal-Mart and his employer, the construction company. The court reiterated the general rule that a landowner is not liable for the negligent conduct of an independent contractor on the premises unless the landowner has been independently negligent.… Read More »

Author: Kevin Parker | Leave a comment Tagged ,

Share this Article:

Federal Courts to Apply More Protective State Law when Analyzing Validity of Pre-dispute Jury Trial Waivers in Diversity Jurisdiction Cases

By Anthony J. Carucci

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that federal courts sitting in diversity jurisdiction must apply the underlying state law to determine the validity of pre-dispute jury trial waivers where the state law is more protective than the federal law. In re Cnty. of Orange, No. 14-72343, 2015 WL 1727240, at *4–5 (9th Cir. Apr. 16, 2015).

Facts/Procedural History

In 2007, plaintiff County of Orange (the “County”) hired defendant Tata America International Corporation (“Tata”) to develop a property tax management system. Id. at *5. In 2008, the parties entered into a contract for that purpose, which included an unambiguous jury trial waiver.… Read More »

Author: Sean M. Sherlock | Leave a comment Tagged ,

Share this Article:

California Case Requires Arbitration Despite Lack of Actual Controversy

 

By:  Lyndsey A. Torp and Sean M. Sherlock

For parties to litigate a contract dispute in a court of law, the parties’ disagreement must have ripened into an actual controversy presenting more than a mere academic difference of opinion.  But under a recent California Court of Appeal opinion, no actual controversy is required to compel arbitration over a disagreement.  Bunker Hill Park Limited v. U.S. Bank National Association, — Cal.Rptr.3d —, 2014 WL 6684796 (Cal.App. 2 Dist.).  To avoid being compelled to arbitrate purely academic disagreements, parties should draft their arbitration clauses to limit arbitrable disputes to those that have ripened into actual controversies.… Read More »

Author: Sean M. Sherlock | Leave a comment Tagged , ,

Share this Article:

Easements Made Easier: Building Pipelines with the Power of Eminent Domain Under the Natural Gas Act

By: Richard H. Herold

Any person or entity seeking to construct a natural gas pipeline and successful in obtaining a certificate of convenience and necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may exercise the power of eminent domain to obtain easements across private property when those easements are necessary and cannot be obtained consensually (by contract) from the landowners.  Columbia Gas Transmission, L.L.C. v. 76 Acres More or Less, 2014 WL 2960836 (D. Md. June 27, 2014).  the Columbia Gas Court recently held that (1) the property’s legal description need not be attached to sufficiently identify the property to be condemned, and (2) even in the absence of a federal condemnation statute authorizing immediate possession of the property, the condemning plaintiff may obtain an order to take immediate possession of the property since it would be wasteful and inefficient to skip over one or more parcels in the construction process – only if the condemning plaintiff is capable of satisfying the requirements for preliminary injunctive relief under Fed.R.Civ.P.… Read More »

Author: Richard Herold | Leave a comment Tagged , , , ,

Share this Article:

Real estate salesperson succeeds in mission to collect commission

By: Erica Stutman

A.R.S. § 32-2152 allows a real estate broker or salesperson to file a court action to collect earned compensation if he was a “qualified licensed broker or salesperson at the time the claim arose.”  In Focus Point Prop., LLC v. Johnson, 689 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 4 (June 19, 2014), plaintiff Cleo Johnson tested the meaning of a “qualified” licensee, arguing that her salesperson was not entitled to his commission because his license could have been revoked at the time he performed his services.

In 2009, Johnson, trustee of a trust, hired Jeff Kantor from Focus Point Properties to sell a commercial property owned by the trust and also to assist with rehabilitation activities and leasing.  … Read More »

Author: Erica Stutman | Leave a comment Tagged , , , , , , ,

Share this Article:

The Registrar is Changing the Game for Complaints Against Arizona Contractors

By Rick Erickson http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/rick_erickson

Sweeping changes at the Registrar of Contractors have the construction and real estate industries concerned and curious.  The Registrar recently received some poor performance reports by the Auditor General and State Ombudsmen.  As a result, the Registrar overhauled its procedures for handling complaints and adjudicating contested cases against Arizona contractors.  You should be following these changes before the Registrar rolls out its new approach this summer.     

The Registrar regulates contractor licensing and enforcement of workmanship standards against thousands of licensees throughout Arizona.  In doing so, the Registrar dictates administrative remedies available to property owners on residential and commercial projects. … Read More »

Author: Rick Erickson | Leave a comment Tagged , , , , ,

Share this Article:

Commercial Real Estate Broker Liens

Arizona, by statute, allows a commercial real estate broker in certain limited circumstances to record a lien against the owner’s real property which is the subject of the commission agreement, in order to protect the broker’s entitlement to their commission.  See A.R.S. §§ 33-1071 – 1076.  The lien rights apply only to commercial real property and residential property with five or more residential units.  The lien rights apply only to leasing and rental transactions, not sales.  The lien is enforceable by a foreclosure action the same as a mortgage.    The statutes identify very specific protocols that need to be followed.  For example, in order to take advantage of such lien rights, such lien rights must be referenced in the pertinent brokerage/listing agreement between the broker and the owner of the real property; a preliminary notice of intent to lien must be recorded no later than 15 days before the date the tenant takes possession; and in certain circumstances a notice of lien must be filed within 90 days after the tenant takes possession. … Read More »

Author: Kevin Parker | Leave a comment Tagged , ,

Share this Article:

Arizona Residential Mortgage Brokers: Potential Additional Liability Exposure on the Horizon

by Bob Henry

Arizona Senate Bill 1026, introduced by Senator Ableser, proposes some significant changes to the law governing Arizona’s residential mortgage brokers that could expand their potential liability arising out of their day-to-day business dealings.

The bill proposes amendments to A.R.S. § 6-909, which currently sets forth various “prohibited acts” for those who are engaged in the business of making or negotiating “mortgage loans” in the State of Arizona. If enacted, S.B. 1026 would impose upon mortgage brokers an independent duty to verify a loan applicant’s ability to repay a loan, which historically has been the obligation (from a business perspective) of the institution actually providing the loan to the borrower, and not a statutory obligation or duty of the person or institution helping a borrower secure the loan.… Read More »

Author: Bob Henry | Leave a comment Tagged , ,

Share this Article:

Bidding on State Land Trust Leases: Even the Top Revenue-Generating Bids Must be Balanced Against Qualitative “Best Use” Factors Designed to Protect the Land

By:  Richard H. Herold

The Court of Appeals recently held that that the Commissioner of the State Land Trust Department properly balanced Wildearth Guardians, Inc.’s higher revenue-generating bid against “best use” qualitative factors set forth in the Arizona Administrative Code.  As a result, the appellate court affirmed the Commissioner’s decision to award a 10-year grazing lease to the Knights for their 28-year record of stewardship and protection of the leased land near Springerville, Arizona, despite the $79,344 in additional revenue over 10 years which would have been generated for the benefit of Arizona’s public schools by the Wildearth Guardian’s bid.  Wildearth Guardians, Inc.Read More »

Author: Richard Herold | Leave a comment Tagged ,

Share this Article:

Suing a Licensed Real Estate Professional May Require You to Complete and Turn In Your Homework.

By: Cory L. Braddock

A lawyer must have a good faith belief, after reasonable inquiry, that a lawsuit he files is grounded in fact and warranted by existing law.  Ariz. R. Civ. P. 11.  In other words, lawyers violate Arizona’s rules of civil procedure when they file frivolous lawsuits.  In Arizona, the legislature has, at least in some cases, added an additional layer of scrutiny to lawsuits filed against licensed professionals.  Specifically, a plaintiff must certify whether or not expert testimony is necessary to prove the licensed professional’s standard of care or liability for the claim.  See A.R.S. § 12-2602(A). When expert testimony is necessary, the plaintiff is required to serve a preliminary expert opinion affidavit with their Rule 26.1 initial disclosure.… Read More »

Author: Cory Braddock | Leave a comment Tagged , ,

Share this Article:

Arizona’s Anti-deficiency Statute, A.R.S. 33-814(G), Cannot be Prospectively Waived Says the Court of Appeals

Money HouseBy:  Ben Reeves

In Parkway Bank & Trust Co. v. Zivkovic, 662 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 26 (Ct. App. 2013), the Arizona Court of Appeals held that provisions in loan documents purporting to waive the applicability of A.R.S. § 33-814(G) violate Arizona public policy and, therefore, are not enforceable under Arizona law.

A.R.S. § 33-814(G) provides that if a lender has a trustee’s sale foreclose of a “property of two and one-half acres or less which is limited to and utilized for either a single one-family or a single two-family dwelling . . . [then] no action may be maintained to recover any difference between the amount obtained by sale and the amount of the indebtedness and any interest, costs and expenses.”  This statute is generally referred to as the “anti-deficiency” statute as it generally prevents lenders from suing homeowners for the difference between the amount owed on their mortgage and the value of their home.… Read More »

Author: Ben Reeves | Leave a comment Tagged , , , ,

Share this Article:

Sign those Real Estate Agreements!

By: Bobby Kethcart

The Statute of Frauds is a BIG deal in real estate transactions and litigation. (This is our second post about it already…) We know it requires (most) agreements related to real estate to be in writing—agreements for the sale of an interest in real property, agreements for a lease of longer than one year, agreements authorizing or employing a broker or agent to buy or sell real property for compensation or a commission, and even some agreements to pay referral commissions if they can’t be performed in less than a year. We also know that the Statute of Frauds only requires the written agreement to be signed “by the party to be charged,” i.e.Read More »

Author: Bobby Kethcart | 1 Comment Tagged , , ,

Share this Article:

Broker Beware?

By: Erica Stutman

While oral contracts are often enforceable, certain categories of contracts must be documented in a signed writing or an action for breach of the contract will be barred by the statute of frauds.  See A.R.S. 44-101 for Arizona’s statute of frauds.  The statute of frauds plays an important role in real estate transactions, as agreements for the sale of an interest in real property and for leases longer than one year fall within the statute, as do most real estate broker or agent agreements.  A less obvious category that may affect a real estate agent or broker’s ability to collect commissions is an agreement which is not to be performed within one year from the date the agreement is made.… Read More »

Author: Erica Stutman | Leave a comment Tagged , , , , , ,

Share this Article: