This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 10/07/2020 at 03:52:24 (UTC).

DANIEL WILLSEY VS RATNER GLEASON INVESTMENT, LLC, ET AL.

Case Summary

On 11/20/2018 DANIEL WILLSEY filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against RATNER GLEASON INVESTMENT, LLC. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Spring Street Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is JON R. TAKASUGI. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    *******4126

  • Filing Date:

    11/20/2018

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Other Contract

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Spring Street Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Judge

JON R. TAKASUGI

 

Party Details

Plaintiff

WILLSEY DANIEL

Sunland, CA 91040

Defendants

RATNER GLEASON INVESTMENT LLC

THE PRAHLED-KUSUM TRUST

GILBERT VALERIE E.

RATNER PROPERTY MANAGEMENT INC.

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Defendant and Plaintiff Attorneys

ROSENTHAL LISA FRANCINE

SOBLE MARC

ROSENTHAL LISA F

 

Court Documents

Motion to Compel (name extension) - Motion to Compel Notice of Motion to Compel Responses and for Extension of Time to File Motion for Leave to File second Amended Complaint and for Monetary Sanctions

9/29/2020: Motion to Compel (name extension) - Motion to Compel Notice of Motion to Compel Responses and for Extension of Time to File Motion for Leave to File second Amended Complaint and for Monetary Sanctions

Declaration (name extension) - Declaration in opposition to demurrer of defendant Valerie E. Gilbert

7/27/2020: Declaration (name extension) - Declaration in opposition to demurrer of defendant Valerie E. Gilbert

Reply (name extension) - Reply Brief in Support of Demurrer to First Amended Complaint

7/29/2020: Reply (name extension) - Reply Brief in Support of Demurrer to First Amended Complaint

Reply (name extension) - Reply in Support of Motion to Strike Portions of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint

8/3/2020: Reply (name extension) - Reply in Support of Motion to Strike Portions of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint

Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Court Order Re: Continuance of Hearings) of 04/23/2020

4/23/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Court Order Re: Continuance of Hearings) of 04/23/2020

Minute Order - Minute Order (Court Order Re: Hearing on Demurrer - without Motion to Strike)

3/23/2020: Minute Order - Minute Order (Court Order Re: Hearing on Demurrer - without Motion to Strike)

Notice (name extension) - Notice of continued hearing on demurrer to First Amended Complaint

3/23/2020: Notice (name extension) - Notice of continued hearing on demurrer to First Amended Complaint

Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Court Order Re: Hearing on Demurrer - without Motion to Strike) of 03/23/2020

3/23/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Court Order Re: Hearing on Demurrer - without Motion to Strike) of 03/23/2020

Opposition (name extension) - Opposition Plaintiff's Opposition to Anti-Slapp Motion to Strike

1/27/2020: Opposition (name extension) - Opposition Plaintiff's Opposition to Anti-Slapp Motion to Strike

Notice of Ruling - Notice of Ruling

1/9/2020: Notice of Ruling - Notice of Ruling

Notice of Motion - Notice of Motion

9/13/2019: Notice of Motion - Notice of Motion

Reply (name extension) - Reply Notice of Non-Opposition to Demurrer and Motion to Strike

10/21/2019: Reply (name extension) - Reply Notice of Non-Opposition to Demurrer and Motion to Strike

Reply (name extension) - Reply Notice of Non-Opposition to Motion to Strike

10/21/2019: Reply (name extension) - Reply Notice of Non-Opposition to Motion to Strike

Notice (name extension) - Notice of Rescheduling Hearing on Defendant's SLAPP Motion

10/22/2019: Notice (name extension) - Notice of Rescheduling Hearing on Defendant's SLAPP Motion

Complaint - Amended Complaint (1st) (Amended)

11/20/2018: Complaint - Amended Complaint (1st) (Amended)

Special Motion to Strike under CCP Section 425.16 (Anti-SLAPP motion) - Special Motion to Strike under CCP Section 425.16 (Anti-SLAPP motion)

5/20/2019: Special Motion to Strike under CCP Section 425.16 (Anti-SLAPP motion) - Special Motion to Strike under CCP Section 425.16 (Anti-SLAPP motion)

Order on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court) - Order on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court)

11/20/2018: Order on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court) - Order on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court)

42 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 11/23/2021
  • Hearing11/23/2021 at 10:30 AM in Department 25 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Order to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service

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  • 10/26/2020
  • Hearing10/26/2020 at 09:30 AM in Department 25 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Non-Appearance Case Review

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  • 10/01/2020
  • DocketThere being no judge available this date, Non-Appearance Case Review Re: Status of Plaintiff's filing of a Motion to Amend the Complaint scheduled for 10/05/2020 at 09:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court was rescheduled to 10/26/2020 09:30 AM

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  • 09/29/2020
  • DocketMotion to Compel Notice of Motion to Compel Responses and for Extension of Time to File Motion for Leave to File second Amended Complaint and for Monetary Sanctions; Filed by: Daniel Willsey (Plaintiff)

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  • 09/29/2020
  • DocketSeparate Statement of Discovery Requests and Responses in Dispute; Filed by: Daniel Willsey (Plaintiff)

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  • 09/29/2020
  • DocketDeclaration of Daniel P. Willsey in Support of Motion to Compel for Extension of Time; Filed by: Daniel Willsey (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/10/2020
  • DocketNon-Appearance Case Review Re: Status of Plaintiff's filing of a Motion to Amend the Complaint scheduled for 10/05/2020 at 09:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25

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  • 08/10/2020
  • DocketMinute Order (Status Conference; Hearing on Demurrer - with Motion to Strik...)

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  • 08/10/2020
  • DocketCertificate of Mailing for (Status Conference; Hearing on Demurrer - with Motion to Strik...) of 08/10/2020; Filed by: Clerk

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  • 08/10/2020
  • DocketStatus Conference scheduled for 08/10/2020 at 10:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 Not Held - Taken Off Calendar by Court on 08/10/2020

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68 More Docket Entries
  • 11/20/2018
  • DocketRequest to Waive Court Fees; Filed by: Daniel Willsey (Plaintiff)

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  • 11/20/2018
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by: Daniel Willsey (Plaintiff); As to: Ratner Gleason Investment, LLC (Defendant)

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  • 11/20/2018
  • DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service scheduled for 11/23/2021 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94

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  • 11/20/2018
  • DocketNon-Jury Trial scheduled for 05/19/2020 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94

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  • 11/20/2018
  • DocketCase assigned to Hon. Jon R. Takasugi in Department 94 Stanley Mosk Courthouse

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  • 11/20/2018
  • DocketFirst Amended Standing Order; Filed by: Clerk

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  • 11/20/2018
  • DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case; Filed by: Clerk

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  • 11/20/2018
  • DocketSummons on Complaint; Issued and Filed by: Clerk

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  • 11/20/2018
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by: Daniel Willsey (Plaintiff)

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  • 11/20/2018
  • DocketOrder on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court); Signed and Filed by: Clerk; As to: Daniel Willsey (Plaintiff)

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: 18STLC14126    Hearing Date: August 10, 2020    Dept: 25

HEARING DATE: Mon., August 10, 2020 JUDGE /DEPT: Blancarte/25

CASE NAME: Willsey v. Ratner Gleason Investment, LLC, et al.

CASE NUMBER: 18STLC14126 COMP. FILED: 11-20-18

NOTICE: OK DISC. C/O: NOT SET

MOTION C/O: NOT SET

TRIAL DATE: NOT SET

PROCEEDINGS: (1) DEFENDANT VALERIE GILBERT’S DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFF’S FAC

MOVING PARTY: Defendant Valerie Gilbert

RESP. PARTY: Plaintiff Daniel Willsey, in pro per

OPPOSITION: Filed on July 27, 2020 [ ] Late [ ] None

REPLY: Filed on July 29, 2020 [ ] Late [ ] None

PROCEEDINGS: (2) DEFENDANTS RATNER INVESTMENT AND RATNER MANAGEMENT’S DEMURRER WITH MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFF’S FAC

MOVING PARTY: Defendants Ratner Gleason Investment, LLC and Ratner Property Management, Inc.

RESP. PARTY: Daniel Willsey, in pro per

DEMURRER

(CCP §§ 430.31, et seq.)

DEMURRER WITH MOTION TO STRIKE

(CCP §§ 430.31, et seq.; 435)

OPPOSITION: Filed on July 27, 2020 [ ] Late [ ] None

REPLY: Filed on August 3, 2020 [ ] Late [ ] None

TENTATIVE RULING:

On the Court’s own motion, Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint filed on October 28, 2019 is HEREBY STRICKEN. Accordingly, (1) Defendant Valerie Gilbert’s Demurrer and (2) Defendants Ratner Gleason Investment, LLC and Ratner Property Management, Inc.’s Demurrer with Motion to Strike are PLACED OFF CALENDAR AS MOOT.

SERVICE:

[X] Proof of Service Timely Filed (CRC, rule 3.1300) OK

[X] Correct Address (CCP §§ 1013, 1013a) OK

[X] 16/21 Court Days Lapsed (CCP §§ 12c, 1005(b)) OK

ANALYSIS:

  1. Background

On November 20, 2018, Plaintiff Daniel Willsey (“Plaintiff”), in pro per, filed an action for abuse of process, malicious prosecution, fraud, breach of contract, and declaratory relief against Defendants Ratner Gleason Investment, LLC (“Ratner Investment”), Ratner Property Management, Inc. (“Ratner Management”) (collectively, the “Ratner Entities”), Valerie E. Gilbert (“Gilbert”), and the Prahled-Kusum Trust (the “Trust”).

On September 13, 2019, the Ratner Entities filed a demurrer to Plaintiff’s first, second, and fourth causes of action, which was scheduled for hearing for October 29, 2019. On October 28, 2019, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (the “FAC”) for abuse of process, malicious prosecution, fraud, breach of contract, and declaratory relief.

Plaintiff did not appear at the October 29th hearing on the demurrer. (10/29/19 Minute Order.) Notably, because the FAC was filed the day before the hearing and because Plaintiff did not appear, the Court was unaware a FAC had been filed. Having heard oral argument from the Ratner Entities, the Court took the matter under submission. (Id.) On November 26, 2019, the demurrer as to the second cause of action for malicious prosecution was sustained without leave to amend. (11/26/19 Minute Order.) However, Plaintiff was granted 30 days’ leave to amend as to the first and fourth causes of action for abuse of process and breach of contract. (11/26/19 Minute Order.) The Court also noted that, because declaratory relief is generally not permissible in limited jurisdiction courts, Plaintiff either needed to remove it from his first amended complaint or move to reclassify the action. (Id.)

On February 24, 2020, Defendant Gilbert filed a Demurrer to Plaintiff’s FAC (the “Gilbert Demurrer”). On March 13, 2020, the Ratner Entities also filed a Demurrer to Plaintiff’s FAC (the “Ratner Demurrer”) with a Motion to Strike (the “Motion”).

On July 27, 2020, Plaintiff filed an Opposition to the Gilbert Demurrer, Ratner Demurrer, and Motion. On July 29, 2020, Defendant Gilbert filed a Reply, and on August 3, 2020, the Ratner Entities filed their Reply.

  1. Legal Standard

A. Demurrer

“The primary function of a pleading is to give the other party notice so that it may prepare its

case [citation], and a defect in a pleading that otherwise properly notifies a party cannot be said to

affect substantial rights.” (Harris v. City of Santa Monica (2013) 56 Cal.4th 203, 240.)

“A demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of the factual allegations in a complaint.” (Ivanoff v. Bank of

America, N.A. (2017) 9 Cal.App.5th 719, 725.) The Court looks to whether “the complaint alleges

facts sufficient to state a cause of action or discloses a complete defense.” (Id.) The Court does not

“read passages from a complaint in isolation; in reviewing a ruling on a demurrer, we read the

complaint ‘as a whole and its parts in their context.’ [Citation.]” (West v. JPMorgan Chase Bank,

N.A. (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 780, 804.) The Court “assume[s] the truth of the properly pleaded

factual allegations, facts that reasonably can be inferred from those expressly pleaded and matters of

which judicial notice has been taken.” (Harris, supra, 56 Cal.4th p. 240.) “The court does not,

however, assume the truth of contentions, deductions or conclusions of law. [Citation.]” (Durell v.

Sharp Healthcare (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 1350, 1358.)

Leave to amend must be allowed where there is a reasonable possibility of successful amendment. (Goodman v. Kennedy (1976) 18 Cal.3d 335, 348.) The burden is on the complainant to show the Court that a pleading can be amended successfully. (Id.)

Finally, Code of Civil Procedure section 430.41 requires that “[b]efore filing a demurrer pursuant to this chapter, the demurring party shall meet and confer in person or by telephone with the party who filed the pleading that is subject to demurrer for the purpose of determining whether an agreement can be reached that would resolve the objections to be raised in the demurrer.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 430.41, subd. (a).) The parties are to meet and confer at least five days before the date the responsive pleading is due. (Code Civ. Proc., § 430.41, subd. (a)(2).) Thereafter, the demurring party shall file and serve a declaration detailing their meet and confer efforts. (Code Civ. Proc., § 430.41, subd. (a)(3).)

B. Motion to Strike

California law authorizes a party’s motion to strike matter from an opposing party’s pleading if it is irrelevant, false, or improper. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 435; 436, subd. (a).) Motions may also target pleadings or parts of pleadings that are not filed or drawn in conformity with applicable laws, rules or orders. (Code Civ. Proc., § 436 subd. (b).) Motions to strike in limited jurisdiction courts may only challenge pleadings on the basis that “the damages or relief sought are not supported by the allegations of the complaint.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 92 subd. (d).) A motion to strike is used to address defects that appear on the face of a pleading or from judicially noticed matter but that are not grounds for a demurrer. (Pierson v. Sharp Memorial Hospital (1989) 216 Cal.App.3d 340, 342; see also City & County of San Francisco v. Strahlendorf (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1911, 1913 [motion may not be based on a party's declaration or factual representations made by counsel in the motion papers].)

In particular, a motion to strike can be used to attack the entire pleading or any part thereof – in other words, a motion may target single words or phrases, unlike demurrers. (Warren v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co. (1971) 19 Cal.App.3d 24, 40.) California’s policy of liberal construction applies to motions to strike. (Code Civ. Proc., § 452; see also Duffy v. Campbell (1967) 250 Cal.App.2d 662, 666 [noting that courts must resolve all reasonable doubts in favor of the pleading when considering a motion to strike].) The Code of Civil Procedure also authorizes the Court to act on its own initiative to strike matters, empowering the Court to enter orders striking matter “at any time in its discretion, and upon terms it deems proper.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 436.)

Finally, Code of Civil Procedure section 435.5 requires that “[b]efore filing a motion to strike pursuant to this chapter, the moving party shall meet and confer in person or by telephone with the party who filed the pleading that is subject to the motion to strike for the purpose of determining whether an agreement can be reached that resolves the objections to be raised in the motion to strike.” (Code Civ. Proc § 435.5, subd. (a).)

  1. Discussion

Both Defendant Valerie and the Ratner Entities demur as to the first cause of action for abuse of process and the second cause of action for malicious prosecution. (Gilbert Demurrer, p. 2:2-22; Ratner Demurrer, p. 2:4-3:4.) They argue that the FAC was not meaningfully amended as the allegations have essentially remained the same. (Id.)

Initially, the Court notes that the FAC was improperly filed. Code of Civil Procedure section 472 allows a party to amend its pleading once, without leave of court, “after a demurrer or motion to strike is filed but before the demurrer or motion to strike is heard if the amended pleading is filed and served no later than the date for filing an opposition to the demurrer or motion to strike.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 472, subd. (a).) (Italics added.) A party may also amend a pleading after the date for filing an opposition to a demurrer or motion to strike if so stipulated by the parties. (Id.)

Here, Plaintiff untimely filed his FAC the day before the hearing on the Ratner Entities’ demurrer and motion to strike in October 2019. There was also no stipulation by the parties allowing Plaintiff to do so after the deadline imposed by Section 472, subdivision (a). After the Court sustained the Ratner Entities’ demurrer and motion to strike on November 26, 2019, Plaintiff made no efforts to file an amended pleading.

Plaintiff argues that he agreed and communicated to the parties that he would seek leave to file a second amended complaint and that his agreement to do so essentially rendered the FAC moot. (Oppositions, p. 2, ¶¶ 1, 2.) He further argues that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been unable to access law libraries to draft and file an amended complaint. (Id. at ¶¶ 3.) He also “accedes to the granting of the demurrer but only with leave to amend…[of] no less than 60 days.” (Oppositions, p. 5, ¶ 13.)

However, this does not overcome that the FAC was not filed in accordance with Section 472, subdivision (a) or that no amended pleading was filed within 30 days of the Court’s November 26, 2019 order, well before any COVID-19 pandemic closures. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s FAC is HEREBY STRICKEN. If Plaintiff wishes to file an amended complaint, he must seek leave to amend via a noticed motion.

As Plaintiff’s FAC has been STRICKEN, the Gilbert Demurrer, Ratner Demurrer, and Motion are all PLACED OFF CALENDAR AS MOOT.

  1. Conclusion & Order

On the Court’s own motion, Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint filed on October 28, 2019 is HEREBY STRICKEN. Accordingly, (1) Defendant Valerie Gilbert’s Demurrer and (2) Defendants Ratner Gleason Investment, LLC and Ratner Property Management, Inc.’s Demurrer with Motion to Strike are PLACED OFF CALENDAR AS MOOT.

Moving parties are ordered to give notice.

Case Number: 18STLC14126    Hearing Date: February 06, 2020    Dept: 25

SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE (ANTI-SLAPP)

(CCP § 425.16)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Defendant Valeri Gilbert’s Anti-SLAPP Motion is DENIED.

OPPOSITION: Filed on January 27, 2020 [X] Late

REPLY Filed on January 30, 2020 [   ] Late

I. Background & Discussion

On November 20, 2018, Plaintiff Daniel P. Willsey (“Plaintiff”) filed an action for abuse of process, malicious prosecution, fraud, breach of contract, and declaratory relief against Defendants Ratner Gleason Investment, LLC, Ratner Property Management, Inc., Valerie E. Gilbert (“Gilbert”), and the Prahledkusum Trust (collectively, “Defendants”).

On May 5, 2019, Gilbert filed the instant Motion Pursuant to CCP § 425.16 (the “Motion”). The Court notes that this Motion was filed as to Plaintiff’s original Complaint, which is no longer the operative pleading as a First Amended Complaint was filed on October 28, 2019.

Regardless, in a limited jurisdiction court, “[m]otions to strike are allowed only on the ground that the damages or relief sought are not supported by the allegations of the complaint.”  (Code Civ. Proc., § 92, subd. (d).)  The Court of Appeal held: “Thus, construing section 92(d) to permit anti-SLAPP motions to be brought in limited civil cases would undermine the Legislature’s goal of efficient and cost-effective litigation in such cases.  [¶] For all these reasons, we conclude that section 92(d) precludes a defendant from bringing a special motion to strike in a limited civil case.”  (1550 Laurel Owner's Association, Inc. v. Appellate Division of Superior Court of Los Angeles County (2018) 28 Cal.App.5th 1146, 1158.)

Thus, the Motion is DENIED.

II. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Defendant Valeri Gilbert’s Anti-SLAPP Motion is DENIED.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.        

Case Number: 18STLC14126    Hearing Date: October 29, 2019    Dept: 94

DEMURRER TO AND MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF COMPLAINT

(CCP §§ 430.10, 436)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Defendants Ratner Gleason Investment, LLC and Ratner Property Management, Inc.s Demurrer to Complaint is SUSTAINED and the Motion to Strike is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART.

ANALYSIS:

I. Background

On November 20, 2018, Plaintiff Daniel Willsey (“Plaintiff”), a tenant, brought this action against his landlords, Defendants Ratner Gleason Investment, LLC (“Ratner LLC”), Ratner Property Management, Inc. (“Ratner Inc.”), Valerie E. Gilbert, and the Prahledkusum Trust (collectively, “Defendants”) for (1) abuse of process, (2) malicious prosecution, (3) fraud, and (4) breach of contract. In response, Ratner LLC and Ratner Inc. (collectively, the “Ratner Entities”) filed a Demurrer to and Motion to Strike Portions of the Complaint on September 13, 2019.

The Ratner Entities have met and conferred with Plaintiff as required by CCP §§ 430.41(a) and 435.5(a). Accordingly, the Court now turns to the merits of the moving papers.

II. Legal Standard

The primary function of a pleading is to give the other party notice so that it may prepare its case [citation], and a defect in a pleading that otherwise properly notifies a party cannot be said to affect substantial rights.” (Harris v. City of Santa Monica (2013) 56 Cal.4th 203, 240.) The legal standard for a demurrer and a motion to strike is the same. “A demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of the factual allegations in a complaint.” (Ivanoff v. Bank of America, N.A. (2017) 9 Cal.App.5th 719, 725.) “The grounds for a motion to strike shall appear on the face of the challenged pleading or from any matter of which the court is required to take judicial notice.” (CCP § 437(a).) The court looks to whether “the complaint alleges facts sufficient to state a cause of action or discloses a complete defense.” (Ivanoff, supra, 9 Cal.App.5th p. 725.) The court “assume[s] the truth of the properly pleaded factual allegations, facts that reasonably can be inferred from those expressly pleaded and matters of which judicial notice has been taken.” (Id.) “The court does not, however, assume the truth of contentions, deductions or conclusions of law. [Citation.]” (Durell v. Sharp Healthcare (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 1350, 1358.)

III. Discussion

A. Demurrer

The Ratner Entities demur to the first cause of action for abuse of process, second cause of action for malicious prosecution, and third cause of action for breach of contract. The Court notes that at various points in the Demurrer, the Ratner Entities raise facts not in the Complaint and assume that the Court would accept those facts as true to negate facts alleged in the Complaint. However, “[t]he function of a demurrer is to test the sufficiency of the complaint by raising questions of law,” and the Court must assume facts alleged in the Complaint as true. (Tindell v. Murphy (2018) 22 Cal.App.5th 1239, 1247.) Thus, the Court’s analysis is limited to the allegations made in the Complaint, so any facts asserted by the Ratner Entities that are outside the Complaint are disregarded for purposes of this Demurrer and Motion to Strike.

1. Abuse of Process (1st Cause of Action)

“‘The common law tort of abuse of process arises when one uses the court’s process for a purpose other than that for which the process was designed. [Citations]. It has been ‘interpreted broadly to encompass the entire range of “procedures” incident to litigation.’ [Citation.] [¶] ‘[T]he essence of the tort [is] . . . misuse of the power of the court; it is an act done in the name of the court and under its authority for the purpose of perpetrating an injustice.’ [Citation.] To succeed in an action for abuse of process, a litigant must establish that the defendant (1) contemplated an ulterior motive in using the process, and (2) committed a willful act in the use of the process not proper in the regular conduct of the proceedings. [Citations].’ [Citation.]” (Yee v. Superior Court (2019) 31 Cal.App.5th 26, 34.)

Plaintiff alleges that the Ratner Entities filed an unlawful detainer (“UD”) action against him without properly serving the summons and complaint him because the Ratner Entities wanted to prevent him from appearing in the case. (Compl. ¶¶ 17-18.) Because of the Ratner Entities’ improper UD action, Plaintiff suffered damages in expenses incurred for defending himself and in emotional distress. (Id. ¶ 19.)

These allegations, however, are insufficient to satisfy the ulterior motive element. “‘The improper purpose usually takes the form of coercion to obtain a collateral advantage, not properly involved in the proceeding itself, such as the surrender of property or the payment of money, by the use of the process as a threat or a club.’” (Spellens v. Spellens (1957) 49 Cal.2d 210, 232-233.) By very its nature, a UD action is designed to evict a tenant. Plaintiff must allege facts to show how the UD action was initiated based on an ulterior motive other than to evict him. As the Ratner Entities point out, (Demurrer p. 3), Plaintiff fails to allege that kind of facts here. The fact that the Ratner Entities failed to properly serve the summons and complaint is irrelevant. For these reasons, the Demurrer is SUSTAINED as to the first cause of action.

2. Malicious Prosecution (2nd Cause of Action)

The tort of malicious prosecution is consisted of three elements. “The underlying action must have been: (i) initiated or maintained by, or at the direction of, the defendant, and pursued to a legal termination in favor of the malicious prosecution plaintiff; (ii) initiated or maintained without probable cause; and (iii) initiated or maintained with malice. [Citations.]” (Parrish v. Latham & Watkins (2017) 3 Cal.5th 767, 775–776.)

“Malicious prosecution actions have traditionally been disfavored as potentially chilling the right to pursue legal redress and report crime. [Citation.] However, we have noted that this principle ‘‘should not be employed to defeat a legitimate cause of action’ or to ‘invent [ ] new limitations on the substantive right, which are without support in principle or authority.’ [Citations.]’ [Citation.]” (Siebel v. Mittlesteadt (2007) 41 Cal.4th 735, 740–741.) “A party filing a malicious prosecution action still faces strict requirements that should militate against an opening of the floodgates for this type of litigation. [Citation.] ‘Concerns over the potential chilling effect . . . are readily assuaged by stringent enforcement of the probable cause element of the malicious prosecution tort.’ [Citation.] It is up to malicious prosecution plaintiffs to ensure that their lawsuits can survive the rigorous judicial scrutiny given to such actions.” (Id. at p. 745, emphasis added.)

Plaintiff alleges that the Ratner Entities dismissed their UD action against him, which constitutes a favorable termination for him. As the Ratner Entities correctly point out in their Demurrer, Plaintiff is mistaken. (Demurrer p. 5.) “A lawsuit’s termination is favorable to the plaintiff, for purposes of a malicious prosecution action, where it ‘‘‘reflect[s] the merits of the action and the plaintiff’s innocence of the misconduct alleged in the lawsuit.’’’ [Citation.] A technical or procedural termination—such as a dismissal on statute of limitations grounds, pursuant to a settlement, or on the grounds of laches—is not favorable for purposes of a malicious prosecution claim. [Citation.]” (Nunez v. Pennisi (2015) 241 Cal.App.4th 861, 874.) Here, the Ratner Entities’ dismissal of the UD action is not a favorable termination on the merits of that action as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Demurrer to the second cause of action is SUSTAINED without leave to amend.

3. Breach of Contract (4th Cause of Action)

“To establish a cause of action for breach of contract, the plaintiff must plead and prove (1) the existence of the contract, (2) the plaintiff’s performance or excuse for nonperformance, (3) the defendant’s breach, and (4) resulting damages to the plaintiff. [Citation.] ‘In an action based on a written contract, a plaintiff may plead the legal effect of the contract rather than its precise language.’ [Citation.]” (Maxwell v. Dolezal (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 93, 97-98.)

As the Ratner Entities correctly argue, Plaintiff fails to submit a copy of the contract at issue or, in the alternative, to sufficiently plead the legal effects of the contract. (Demurrer p. 6.) Even when the Court reads the entire Complaint together, it is difficult to discern the terms of contract that are at issue here. Plaintiff, therefore, has failed to sufficiently plead his breach-of-contract claim, and the Demurrer to the fourth cause of action is SUSTAINED.

B. Declaratory Relief is Generally Not Permissible in Limited Jurisdiction Court

Per CCP § 580(b)(4), “[d]eclaratory relief, except as authorized by Section 86,” is not permissible in a limited jurisdiction court. CCP § 86(a)(7) is inapplicable as there is no cross-complaint for the right of indemnity or a nonbinding fee arbitration is not at issue. Accordingly, the Court has no jurisdiction over the declaratory relief claim. If Plaintiff seeks to maintain this claim, he would need to move to reclassify this action. If not, Plaintiff should remove this cause of action from his next amended pleading. An OSC hearing regarding this issue is necessary for Plaintiff to appear and address it with the Court.

C. Motion to Strike

Plaintiff pleads for treble damages under the Los Angeles Municipal Code § 151.10, which states: “Any person who demands, accepts or retains any payment of rent in excess of the maximum rent or maximum adjusted rent in violation of the provisions of this chapter, or any regulations or orders promulgated hereunder, shall be liable in a civil action to the person from whom such payment is demanded, accepted or retained for damages of three times the amount by which the payment or payments demanded, accepted or retained exceed the maximum rent or maximum adjusted rent which could be lawfully demanded, accepted or retained together with reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs as determined by the court.” (Emphasis added.)

The Ratner Entities move to strike the allegations of treble damages for insufficiency. While the Ratner Entities are correct that “[t]reble damages are punitive in nature,” (Imperial Merchant Services, Inc. v. Hunt (2009) 47 Cal.4th 381, 394), they assert without authority that all statutory treble damages, or at least the one under the Los Angeles Municipal Code § 151.10, must also satisfy the requirements of punitive damages allowable under CCP § 3294. As far as the Court is aware, there is no authority supporting the later proposition. Los Angeles Municipal Code § 151.10 and CCP § 3294 are two independent rules. To be entitled to treble damages under Los Angeles Municipal Code § 151.10, Plaintiff only needs to allege facts to show that the Ratner Entities demanded, accepted, or retained “any payment of rent in excess of the maximum rent or maximum adjusted rent in violation of the provisions of this chapter . . . .” (Los Angeles Municipal Code § 151.10.) Plaintiff need not allege facts to satisfy the requirements of CCP § 3294. Thus, the Ratner Entities’ objection to Plaintiff’s prayer for treble damages based on Section 3294 is unpersuasive.

The Ratner Entities also object to Plaintiff’s prayer for costs and attorney fees under Los Angeles Municipal Code § 151.10, arguing that Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently plead which provision of the Los Angeles Municipal Code that they violated that would afford Plaintiff costs and attorney fees provided under the code. (Motion to Strike p. 4.) Having reviewed the Complaint, the Court agrees. Plaintiff’s allegation for costs and attorney fees under Los Angeles Municipal Code § 151.10 are therefore STRICKEN.

IV. Conclusion

In light of the foregoing, the Demurrer to second cause of action is SUSTAINED without leave to amend. But the Demurrer to first and fourth causes of action is SUSTAINED with 20 days’ leave to amend. The Motion to Strike is DENIED as to treble damages but GRANTED as to the request for costs and attorney fees under Los Angeles Municipal Code § 151.10.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

Parties who intend to submit on this tentative must send an email to the Court at SMCdept94@lacourt.org as directed by the instructions provided on the court website at www.lacourt.org. If the department does not receive an email and there are no appearances at