On 04/30/2019 XINGFEI LUO filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against CHENGCHEN LI. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is JAMES E. BLANCARTE. The case status is Other.
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
JAMES E. BLANCARTE
LI CHENGCHEN AKA MICHELLE LI
12/9/2019: Request for Dismissal - Request for Dismissal
11/20/2019: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Demurrer - with Motion to Strike (CCP 430.10))
10/31/2019: Opposition (name extension) - Opposition to defendant's demurrer to 2nd amended complaint
10/30/2019: Proof of Service by Mail - Proof of Service by Mail
10/7/2019: Amended Complaint - Amended Complaint Second
10/7/2019: Proof of Service by Mail - Proof of Service by Mail
10/23/2019: Motion to Strike (not anti-SLAPP) - without Demurrer - Motion to Strike (not anti-SLAPP) - without Demurrer Defendant's Notice of Motion to Strike and Motion to Strike Portions of Second Amended Compl
10/23/2019: Declaration (name extension) - Declaration of Chengchen Li aka Michelle Li Re Meet and Confer Compliance Re Demurrer to Second Amended Complaint and Motion to Strike Portions of Second Amended Complai
7/22/2019: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Demurrer - with Motion to Strike (CCP 430.10))
6/24/2019: Demurrer - without Motion to Strike - Demurrer - without Motion to Strike
6/24/2019: Motion to Strike (not initial pleading) - Motion to Strike (not initial pleading)
5/10/2019: Proof of Personal Service - Proof of Personal Service by Sheriff's Department
5/10/2019: Proof of Personal Service - Proof of Personal Service by Sheriff's Department
4/30/2019: Civil Case Cover Sheet - Civil Case Cover Sheet
4/30/2019: Summons - Summons on Complaint
4/30/2019: Order on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court) - Order on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court)
4/30/2019: First Amended Standing Order - First Amended Standing Order
DocketNon-Jury Trial scheduled for 10/27/2020 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94 Not Held - Vacated by Court on 12/11/2019Read MoreRead Less
DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service scheduled for 05/03/2022 at 10:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94 Not Held - Vacated by Court on 12/11/2019Read MoreRead Less
DocketProof of Service by Mail; Filed by: Xingfei Luo (Plaintiff); As to: Chengchen Li (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketOn the Amended Complaint (2nd) filed by Xingfei Luo on 10/07/2019, entered Request for Dismissal without prejudice filed by Xingfei Luo as to Chengchen LiRead MoreRead Less
DocketRequest for Dismissal; Filed by: Xingfei Luo (Plaintiff); As to: Chengchen Li (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Ruling Defendant's Notice of Ruling Re Hearing of Demurrer and Motion to Strike Portions of Second Amended Complaint; Filed by: Chengchen Li (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketMinute Order (Hearing on Demurrer - with Motion to Strike (CCP 430.10))Read MoreRead Less
DocketHearing on Demurrer - with Motion to Strike (CCP 430.10) scheduled for 11/20/2019 at 10:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94 updated: Result Date to 11/20/2019; Result Type to HeldRead MoreRead Less
DocketOpposition to defendant's demurrer to 2nd amended complaint; Filed by: Xingfei Luo (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketOpposition to defendant's motion strike to portions of 2nd amended complaint; Filed by: Xingfei Luo (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketUpdated -- Amended Complaint 1st: Status Date changed from 06/04/2019 to 04/30/2019Read MoreRead Less
DocketUpdated -- Amended Complaint (2nd): Status Date changed from 10/07/2019 to 04/30/2019Read MoreRead Less
DocketRequest to Waive Court Fees; Filed by: Xingfei Luo (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketOrder on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court); Signed and Filed by: Clerk; As to: Xingfei Luo (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by: Xingfei Luo (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketSummons on Complaint; Issued and Filed by: ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case; Filed by: ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketFirst Amended Standing Order; Filed by: ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketCase assigned to Hon. James E. Blancarte in Department 94 Stanley Mosk CourthouseRead MoreRead Less
DocketNon-Jury Trial scheduled for 10/27/2020 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94Read MoreRead Less
Case Number: 19STLC04180 Hearing Date: November 20, 2019 Dept: 94
Luo v. Li, et al.
MOTIION TO STRIKE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT
(CCP §§ 430.10, 436)
Defendant Chengchen Li aka Michelle Li’s Demurrer to Second Amended Complaint is SUSTAINED in its entirety and the Motion to Strike is GRANTED, both with 20 days’ leave to amend.
This action arose from a dispute over a residential lease agreement between tenant Plaintiff Xingfei Luo (“Plaintiff”) and landlord Defendant Chengchen Li aka Michelle Li (“Defendant”). On June 4, 2019, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint (the “FAC”) for (1) fraud, (2) unjust enrichment, (3) breach of implied covenant of good faith, and (4) unlawful and unfair business practices. On October 1, 2019, the court sustained Defendant’s demurrer to the entire FAC granted Defendant’s motion to strike punitive damages, both with 20 days leave to amend.
On October 7, 2019, Plaintiff filed the operative Second Amended Complaint (the “SAC”) for (1) fraud, (2) unjust enrichment, (3) breach of implied covenant of good faith, and (4) unlawful and unfair business practices.
On October 23, 2019, Defendant filed a demurrer and a motion to strike, both as to SAC. On October 31, 2019, Plaintiff filed the opposition 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.)
The parties entered into a rental agreement in September 2017, and Defendant moved into a “rental room [that] was detached from the [Plaintiff’s] house but attached to the garage.” (SAC ¶ 6.) Within a few months, Plaintiff encountered difficulties with Defendant and Defendant’s husband. Defendant’s husband informed Plaintiff that the rent would be increased due to the high costs of the water and electricity bills; Defendant’s husband also informed Plaintiff that heater was not allowed to be used in Plaintiff’s rental room; and when Plaintiff purchased a toaster oven and electric skillet, “Defendant’s husband condemned Plaintiff for those purchases without his permission.” (Id. ¶¶ 8-10.) Plaintiff brought this action wanting all his rental payments back and for punitive damages. (Id. p. 7:26-28.) Defendant contends, however, that Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege her four causes of action and the allegations are uncertain.
1. Special Demurrer for Uncertainty
Defendant especially demurs to the FAC for uncertainty. Special demurrers for uncertainty, however, are not permitted in a limited jurisdiction court. (See CCP § 92(c).) Accordingly, this Court cannot consider a special demurrer, and it is OVERRULED.
2. Fraud (First Cause of Action)
“The elements of fraud are (1) misrepresentation, (2) knowledge of falsity, (3) intent to induce reliance on the misrepresentation, (4) justifiable reliance on the misrepresentation, and (5) resulting damages. [Citation.] Fraud allegations ‘involve a serious attack on character’ and therefore are pleaded with specificity. [Citation.] General and conclusory allegations are insufficient. [Citation.] The particularity requirement demands that a plaintiff plead facts which ‘‘‘show how, when, where, to whom, and by what means the representations were tendered.’’’ [Citation.] Further, when a plaintiff asserts fraud against a corporation, the plaintiff must ‘allege the names of the persons who made the allegedly fraudulent representations, their authority to speak, to whom they spoke, what they said or wrote, and when it was said or written.’ [Citation.] Less specificity in pleading fraud is required ‘when ‘it appears from the nature of the allegations that the defendant must necessarily possess full information concerning the facts of the controversy . . . .’’ [Citation.]” (Cansino v. Bank of America (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 1462, 1469.)
Defendant contends Plaintiff fails to adequately allege a material misrepresentation of fact attributable to Defendant.
Plaintiff alleges Defendant’s misrepresentation was that Defendant offered Plaintiff a furnished bedroom to rent. (SAC ¶¶ 16, 18, 19.) This was a misrepresentation because the room was in violation of zoning and building codes, and therefore, could not lawfully be used as a bedroom. (Ibid.) Implicit in Plaintiff’s allegations is that Defendant represented that she was offering a bedroom that is compliant with all zoning and building codes. While the court reads a pleading liberally in stating a cause of action when a demurrer is brought against it, the court also weighs the policy of requiring sufficient specificity to state a cause of action for fraud. Under these circumstances, the court requires more specificity to determine what material facts Defendant allegedly misrepresented.
While a fraud claim may be based on an expression of a professional opinion (e.g., about what the law requires), there must be allegations of superior knowledge, special information, or expertise about the subject matter. (Bily v. Arthur Young & Co. (1992) 3 Cal.4th 370, 408 [“when a party possesses or holds itself out as possessing superior knowledge or special information or expertise regarding the subject matter and a plaintiff is so situated that it may reasonably rely on such supposed knowledge, information, or expertise, the defendant’s representation may be treated as one of material fact.”].) Here, Plaintiff merely alleges “Defendant knew or reasonably should have known what part of the PROPERTY was legally permitted as what.” (SAC ¶ 16.) This does not meet the specificity requirement for a fraud claim.
Thus, the court determines Plaintiff does not allege a misrepresentation by Defendant with sufficient specificity.
Further, the court determines Plaintiff does not adequately allege Defendant had knowledge that the representation was false. There are no sufficiently express allegations that Defendant knew the bedroom was not in compliance with all building and zoning codes. For example, Plaintiff alleges, “DEFENDANT intentionally misrepresented to PLAINTIFF that the rental room was a furnished bedroom when it in fact should not be used to live in.” (SAC ¶ 18.) While this allegation sufficiently shows Defendant intentionally told Plaintiff there was a furnished bedroom for rent, it is too ambiguous to also mean Defendant knew the room was in violation of zoning and building codes. The same goes for paragraph 19: “In Sep 2017 DEFENDANT made an untrue statement that the room was a bedroom and PLAINTIFF believed it was legal but in fact the room was a violation of zoning and building codes and contained with fire hazard and safety defect.”
Accordingly, the Demurrer as to the first cause of action is SUSTAINED with leave to amend.
3. Unjust Enrichment (Second Cause of Action)
“Generally, one who is unjustly enriched at the expense of another is required to make restitution. [Citations.] The elements of a cause of action for unjust enrichment are simply stated as ‘receipt of a benefit and unjust retention of the benefit at the expense of another.’ [Citations.]” (Professional Tax Appeal v. Kennedy-Wilson Holdings, Inc. (2018) 29 Cal.App.5th 230, 238.)
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant unjustly retained $6,540 from Plaintiff as a result of Defendant’s fraud. (SAC ¶ 22.) Thus, the element of unjust retention is linked to Defendant’s alleged fraudulent conduct. In other words, Defendant retained the money unjustly because Defendant obtained it fraudulently. However, Plaintiff has not adequately alleged Defendant’s fraudulent conduct. (See supra, sec. 2.) Therefore, Plaintiff also has not sufficiently alleged the unjust retention element of unjust enrichment.
Accordingly, the Demurrer to the second cause of action is SUSTAINED with leave to amend.
4. Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing (Third Cause of Action)
“‘‘In essence, the covenant is implied as a supplement to the express contractual covenants, to prevent a contracting party from engaging in conduct which (while not technically transgressing the express covenants) frustrates the other party's rights to the benefits of the contract.’’ [Citation.]” (McClain v. Octagon Plaza, LLC (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 784, 806.) The Judicial Council of California Advisory Committee on Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) No. 325 states that the elements of a breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing are:
Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a contract;
Plaintiff did all, or substantially all of the significant things that the contract required her to do she was excused from having to do those things;
That all conditions required for Defendant’s performance had occurred or were excused;
Defendant unfairly interfered with Plaintiff’s right to receive the benefits of the contract; and
Plaintiff was harmed by Defendant’s conduct.
Here, Plaintiff fails to allege that Plaintiff did all, or substantially all, of the significant things that the contract required her to do she was excused from having to do those things. Plaintiff’s allegation that Plaintiff never missed a rent payment (SAC ¶ 29) is not tantamount to alleging Plaintiff satisfied all of the significant things the contract required Plaintiff to do. The contract is not attached and Plaintiff has not alleged the terms of the contract, so the court cannot reasonably infer that the contract only required her to pay rent and nothing more.
Accordingly, the Demurrer to the third cause of action is SUSTAINED with leave to amend. The court notes the demurrer to FAC was sustained for the same reason, among others.
5. Unlawful and Unfair Business Practices (Fourth Cause of Action)
“‘‘[A]n action based on Business and Professions Code section 17200 to redress an unlawful business practice ‘borrows’ violations of other laws and treats these violations, when committed pursuant to business activity, as unlawful practices independently actionable under [Business and Professions Code] section 17200 et seq. and subject to the distinct remedies provided thereunder.’’ [Citation.]” (Turner v. Seterus, Inc. (2018) 27 Cal.App.5th 516, 536.)
Because the Demurrer to Plaintiff’s other causes of action has been sustained, her fourth cause of for unlawful business practices must necessarily fails as it depends on Plaintiff sufficiently alleging another cause of action. The Demurrer to the fourth cause of action is therefore SUSTAINED with leave to amend.
B. Motion to Strike
“In order to state a prima facie claim for punitive damages, a complaint must set forth the elements as stated in the general punitive damage statute, Civil Code section 3294. [Citation.] These statutory elements include allegations that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud or malice. [Citation.]” (Turman v. Turning Point of Central Calif., Inc. (2010) 191 Cal.App.4th 53, 63.) “‘Malice’ means conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.” (Civ. Code § 3294(c)(1).) “‘Oppression’ means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights.” (§ 3294(c)(2).) “‘Fraud’ means an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of a material fact known to the defendant with the intention on the part of the defendant of thereby depriving a person of property or legal rights or otherwise causing injury.” ((§ 3294(c)(3).) “‘Despicable’ is a powerful term that refers to circumstances that are ‘base,’ ‘vile,’ or ‘contemptible.’” (College Hospital Inc. v. Superior Court (1994) 8 Cal.4th 704, 725.)
Defendant contends that Plaintiff fails to allege sufficient facts in support of her request for punitive damages. The Court agrees as the allegations are sufficient to demonstrate oppression, fraud, or malice. In particular, Plaintiff inadequately alleges Defendant’s misrepresentation or knowledge of the bedroom’s noncompliance with zoning and building codes when offering the room to Plaintiff for rent. The Motion to Strike allegations of punitive damages is GRANTED with leave to amend.
In light of the foregoing, the Demurrer to the SAC is SUSTAINED in its entirety with 20 days’ leave to amend. The Motion to Strike is also GRANTED with 20 days’ leave to amend.
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 the hearing, the motion will be placed off calendar.