In the Lake Sherwood community where celebrities like Wayne Gretzky and Tom Petty own homes, a client bought one of the few remaining water-front vacant lots overlooking Lake Sherwood. The lot was considered practically worthless because the two adjacent land owners claimed easements on the client's lot. One of the property owners claiming an easement, was Sherwood Country Club's golf Champion, and a golfing partner of Sean Connery. My client wanted to build a home and offered to buy out the claimed easements. The other property owners refused to cooperate so we sued for Quite Title. After a week long trial, the court issued a Quite Title Judgment vindicating my client and clearing the easement. My client's property went from "unbuildable" and worthless, to one the choicest lots on Lake Sherwood - worth millions.
During the "good years" of real estate investment, my client was talked into investing with a Hard Money Broker. The hard money broker would form groups of people who would invest in particular properties. The projects were either new construction, or a refurbish projects. Once the construction was finished, it was sold. It worked great when the market was always moving up. When the market stumbled, the broker's "can't miss" investments, were not such "sure things". One of the Broker's selling points was that he personally invested in the properties. Three properties my client invested in went belly-up. The Broker hadn't invested in any of those three projects. With one, the builder hadn't even pulled a permit, yet the Broker paid the builder for construction "progress" and nonexistent building material. I tried the case, and secured a judgment for the client of over $190,000.
Before trial, the defendant's attorney reminded me, several times, that he was a Harvard Law graduate. He made it clear that he had tried over 200 cases in his career, and intimated I was up against the "best". When we got close to trial he sent a chest-thumping email that ended with: "Lets dance". After trial, I should have asked the Harvard graduate how many trials he had lost.
Collaterally, The Broker had his Broker's license revoked. He also appealed the Judgment and lost - in fact the Broker's Appeal resulted in a larger post-Appeal Judgment. (Green v Johnson Cal App 2013)
1. A gunman robbed a jeweler and shot him leaving the merchant severely injured. The merchant sued the security company which was hired to patrol the shopping center. I defended the security company. I filed a Motion for Summary Judgment which asserted several reasons why the guards owed no duty to the jeweler. Plaintiff argued that the jeweler had hired the guard for "extra" personal service. Plaintiff claimed a number of things and most of his "facts" were legally irrelevant, but what plaintiff failed to do, was depose the guard. At oral argument for the Motion, plaintiff's counsel claimed they needed to depose the guard and had a right to continue the motion hearing to do the deposition. I argued that the guard's testimony was irrelevant to the legal duty issues raised in the Motion, and that the guard was never employed by the jeweler and in any event, plaintiff had had 3 years prior to the Motion in which to depose the guard, and didn't do it. The court agreed with my arguments and granted Summary Judgment. Plaintiff appealed and lost.
2. Plaintiff sued my client for 17 causes of action. I filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and, an alternative Motion for Summary Adjudication. The court agreed with my arguments on 6 of the 17 causes of action. Although I didn't get the whole case thrown out, the 6 Causes of Action that were dismissed, gutted plaintiff's case because his claims for damages (and claim for attorney fees) were completely dependent on and tied to the dismissed 6 Causes of Action. What was also interesting is shortly after I filed the Motion, plaintiff fired his lawyers, and hired another firm. I was told that plaintiff had lost confidence in his former attorneys after he read my pleadings. After I got the 6 causes of action dismissed, I negotiated a settlement wherein my client paid an amount, but only an amount my client had already admitted he owed and was willing to pay.
A Mediation resulted in my clients agreeing to pay over 1.2 Million Dollars on a personal guarantee from a debt generated by a failed company. I could not participate in the mediation negotiations because of a conflict, however the opposition's attorney made two serious (unforced) errors after the mediation, which triggered a debt reduction. I noticed the errors and informed the settling clients. Although the attorneys for the opposition claimed my clients were in breach and claimed that no debt reduction applied, the clients were not backing down. Finally, counsel for plaintiff tried to void the mediation Settlement altogether. I attempted to informally (and gently) persuade opposition counsel that he was wrong, pointing to Case Law regarding mediation privilege (which prevents any introduction or use of their claimed "evidence" of "actual" intent) and added that a motion to enforce would likely be granted and would result in a subsequent motion for attorney fees.
Counsel refused to concede. The result was a Motion to Enforce the Settlement Agreement. At the hearing (and in its Order) the court agreed with me. In the Court's order, the judge chided opposing counsel for misrepresenting facts and the law, and Ordered that the Settlement Agreement be enforced with a $445,000 debt reduction credit to the clients. Although counsel threatened to appeal, they ultimately conceded. I later filed a Motion for Attorney Fees which was used as leverage for further client benefit.
A client wanted to buy a home, and made an offer on a furnished waterfront home. The offer was communicated to the seller over the phone, and the seller accepted. The seller and buyer closed within a week, but the seller claimed that he was owed an additional $275,000 for the "included" furniture. Push came to shove and the matter was eventually tried after lengthy and contentious discovery. At the conclusion of the bench trial, the judge was ready to render a decision, but suggested that the parties come up with a settlement. The court suggested that [my client] give the property back, and the seller should pay for the client's upgrades. I recognized it instantly that the court's suggestion was the best result possible for the client and I told him so (hoping the other side would also agree to the deal).
The client had been paying "interest only" on a carry-back note, thus he had been paying a "well under market" price to, in effect lease a beach-side home, for well over a year. The market had dropped significantly after he had "purchased" the property, so the property was worth about 80% what my client paid for it. I did the math, and calculated that if the client just quit the property and signed over the deed to the seller, he would benefit by at least $250,000, plus having lived in a furnished beach front home at about 50% of the going rate for over a year. Sometimes not "winning" is, in fact, a big win.
If the law and facts are suitable, a Summary Judgment can end a claim before it gets out of hand (and expensive). However, if the Summary Judgment isn't done correctly, and doesn't include the correct formatting and requisite separate pleadings, the court will deny the Motion. You get only one bite at that apple so doing it correctly the first time, is critical. I've filed a number of successful Motions for Summary Judgment.
TRIAL RESULTED A MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR WIN FOR CLIENT
A new client called me after he had lost at trial. He had fired his trial counsel (post-trial) and wanted me to oppose an almost $70,000 Motion for Attorney Fees. The biggest problem was, the opposition was due in a few days, and the Judge had already denied requests by his former trial counsel to strike the attorney fees request, and the Statement of Decision included a grant of attorney fees. Nonetheless, I agreed to take the case. I filed an Opposition citing, and distinguishing the case law the court had used, and citing case law the court was apparently unaware of. The court agreed that it had made a mistake and reversed its ruling, voiding the award for attorney fees award. The result was the client saving almost $70,000 on the Judgment. The client also wanted to appeal the Judgment. After I reviewed all of the trial material I agreed to file an Appeal.
OPPOSITION TO MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES SAVED THE CLIENT $76,000
MOTION TO ENFORCE A SETTLEMENT AGREEEMENT RESULTED IN A $445,000 SAVINGS FOR CLIENTS
OPPOSITION TO MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES SAVED THE CLIENT ALMOST $70,000
A client Lost a Special Motion to Strike (SLAPP), and the successful Defendant's attorney filed Motion for Attorney Fees based on the prevailing statute. The Motion demanded $103,000 in attorney fees. I filed an Opposition pointing out several errors in the Motion and Declarations and citing, among other facts that counsel had no local experience whereas I had two decades practicing in Ventura County and knew what (the best) local attorneys billed for on average. The Judge agreed with me, initially reducing the award by 80% and finally allowing for $26,750 in attorney fees and costs. The Opposition saved the client close to $76,000.
TRIAL and SETTLEMENT ON A REAL ESTATE CONTRACT
TRIAL TO JUDGMENT - REAL ESTATE BROKER AS A HARD MONEY LENDER
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