On 10/02/2015 JULIE GUILBAULT filed a Labor - Wrongful Termination lawsuit against TWC ADMINISTRATION LLC. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are GREGORY KEOSIAN and GAIL FEUER. The case status is Disposed - Dismissed.
Disposed - Dismissed
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
TWC ADMINISTRATION LLC
LAW OFFICES OF DONALD POTTER
HILL FARRER & BURRILL LLP
10/2/2015: COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES I. DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION IN VIOLATION OF CAL. GOV. CODE ? 12940 (A); ETC
10/8/2015: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS
10/16/2015: NOTICE OF SERVICE RE NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
11/4/2015: ANSWER TO COMPLAINT
1/5/2016: CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT
1/14/2016: CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT
2/1/2016: CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER
2/1/2016: Minute Order
2/5/2016: NOTICE OF TRIAL AND RELATED DATES
4/26/2016: ORDER FOR REMAND
6/23/2016: Minute Order
6/23/2016: STIPULATED PROTECTIVE ORDER
6/27/2016: NOTICE OF EXECUTED STIPULATED PROTECTIVE ORDER
7/5/2016: NOTICE OF UNAVAILABILITY OF COUNSEL
8/4/2016: NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF ENTIRE CASE
8/9/2016: Minute Order
8/12/2016: NOTICE OF COURT'S ORDER RE NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF ENTIRE CASE
8/30/2016: REQUEST FOR DISMISSAL
at 09:30 AM in Department 78; Jury Trial - Not Held - Advanced and VacatedRead MoreRead Less
at 09:00 AM in Department 78; Final Status Conference - Not Held - Advanced and VacatedRead MoreRead Less
at 09:00 AM in Department 78; (OSC RE Dismissal; Order of Dismissal) -Read MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 78; Post-Mediation Status Conference - Not Held - Advanced and VacatedRead MoreRead Less
REQUEST FOR DISMISSALRead MoreRead Less
Request for Dismissal; Filed by Plaintiff/PetitionerRead MoreRead Less
NOTICE OF COURT'S ORDER RE NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF ENTIRE CASERead MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 78; Court Order - HeldRead MoreRead Less
Minute OrderRead MoreRead Less
Notice of Settlement; Filed by Plaintiff/PetitionerRead MoreRead Less
ANSWER TO COMPLAINTRead MoreRead Less
Answer; Filed by TWC Administration, LLC (Defendant); Carol Flores (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
NOTICE OF SERVICE RE NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCERead MoreRead Less
PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by Julie Guilbault (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCERead MoreRead Less
Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Complaint; Filed by Julie Guilbault (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES I. DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION IN VIOLATION OF CAL. GOV. CODE 12940 (A); ETCRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: BC596620 Hearing Date: July 07, 2020 Dept: 61
Plaintiffs and Cross-Defendants Eric L. Beason and Heidi M. Kuebler’s Motion for Summary Judgment or Adjudication is DENIED.
“In granting or denying a motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication, the court need rule only on those objections to evidence that it deems material to its disposition of the motion. Objections to evidence that are not ruled on for purposes of the motion shall be preserved for appellate review.” (Code Civ. Proc. § 437c, subd. (q).)
Godzik objects to many portions of the Kubler declaration, including her testimony that the time-limitation provision in the contract was material. But Kubler is competent to testify as to what provisions in the contract were material to her signing it, and Godzik’s authority does not state that a party to a contract cannot testify as to why they regarded which terms as material. Objections No. 1–8 are therefore OVERRULED.
Likewise, Kubler’s relation of what the laborers told her they were doing on the easement when she asked them is admissible as a contemporaneous statement. (Evid. Code § 1241.) Objection No. 9 is OVERRULED.
Objection No. 10, concerning the statements of a Los Angeles City Inspector as to what work required a permit and whether an order to comply would be issued are hearsay, and Objection No. 10 is SUSTAINED as to the legal truth of the statements, but OVERRULED as to the fact that KB were informed by municipal officials that they were legally responsible for the violations identified. (Kubler authenticates the actual order to comply as Exhibit 10 to her declaration, and Godzik’s objection to same is OVERRULED.)
Objections No. 11–13 are OVERRULED as Kubler may testify as to Godzik’s actions that she witnessed and as to what she notified Godzik of.
Objections No. 14 and 15 are SUSTAINED because Kubler provides no foundation for her ability to testify concerning the ultimate effect of Godzik’s proposed drainage plans on the KB property.
Objection No. 16 is SUSTAINED as to Kubler’s testimony about what she was told by the City relating to KB’s potential liability for Godzik’s actions, as this testimony is hearsay, except to prove the reasoning for KB’s later actions based on the information conferred. (See Commercial Union Assur. Co. v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (1934) 220 Cal.515, 524 [testimony about statements of fire chief about keeping building closed were hearsay].)
Objections No. 21 and 22 are OVERRULED, as the letters to Godzik are not submitted for the truth of the matters contained therein, but to prove that Godzik was on notice of the contents of the letters. Objection No. 23 is OVERRULED as well, as Kubler authenticates the plan as being produced by Godzik.
Objection No. 24 to Exhibit 17 is SUSTAINED, as the exhibit consists of unauthenticated photographs.
KB argues that Godzik is estopped from introducing extrinsic evidence to interpret the contract because Godzik argues that the contract is unambiguous in her favor. But the court does not believe Godzik is estopped from arguing that the contract is unambiguously in her favor and also that extrinsic evidence favors her interpretation.
KB argues that the declaration of attorney Cynthia Hall should be excluded because Godzik only provided a PO Box for Hall when KB requested contact information for relevant witnesses in discovery. But the evidence that KB introduces does not suggest that KB sought further information once this information was provided.
KB argues that the Hall declaration should be excluded unless Godzik intends to waive the attorney-client privilege. Yet Hall’s testimony does not concern communications between herself and Godzik, but between herself and KB’s attorneys.
KB argues that Hall’s declaration should be excluded because it violates the privilege for offers of compromise in Evidence Code § 1152. This argument fails, because the statute provides “[e]vidence that a person has, in compromise . . . offered or promised to furnish money or any other thing, act, or service to another who has sustained or will sustain . . . loss or damage, as well as any conduct or statements made in negotiation thereof, is inadmissible to prove his or her liability for the loss or damage or any part of it.” (Evid. Code § 1152, subd. (a).) Thus the statute makes clear that what is inadmissible are offers to ameliorate losses or damages to prove liability for those same losses or damages. (See Fletcher v. Western National Life Ins.Co. (1970) 10 Cal.App.3d 376, 396.) But Hall does not testify regarding the settlement negotiations to prove that KB is liable for injuries that the parties were then negotiating to compromise, but rather to interpret the contract that was formed as a product of those same negotiations, and to pursue and defend claims that arose after those negotiations. And while KB argues that statements made during a mandatory settlement conference are privileged under Evidence Code § 1119, KB presents no evidence that any of Hall’s statements relate to the mandatory settlement conference.
KB’s Objections No. 5, 8, 23, 25, and 26 to Hall’s testimony concerning negotiation issues is OVERRULED for the reasons outlined above.
KB’s Objections No. 31, 32, and 34–36 to similar testimony by Godzik herself is also OVERRULED. KB’s Objections No. 39–40 are OVERRULED because Godzik is competent to testify to the reasons for her construction projects. Likewise, KB’s Objections No. 42–46 are also OVERRULED, as Godzik has personal knowledge of the efforts she made prior to the commencement of construction, and after the issuance of the Order to Comply, to comply with the settlement agreement and easement.
A party may move for summary judgment “if it is contended that the action has no merit or that there is no defense to the action or proceeding.” (Code Civ. Proc. § 437c, subd. (a).) “[I]f all the evidence submitted, and all inferences reasonably deducible from the evidence and uncontradicted by other inferences or evidence, show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” the moving party will be entitled to summary judgment. (Adler v. Manor Healthcare Corp. (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1110, 1119.) A motion for summary adjudication may be made by itself or as an alternative to a motion for summary judgment and shall proceed in all procedural respects as a motion for summary judgment. (Code Civ. Proc. § 437c, subd. (f)(2).)
The moving party bears an initial burden of production to make a prima facie showing of the nonexistence of any triable issue of material fact, and if he does so, the burden shifts to the opposing party to make a prima facie showing of the existence of a triable issue of material fact. (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 850; accord Code Civ. Proc. § 437c, subd. (p)(2).)
Once the defendant has met that burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that a triable issue of one or more material facts exists as to that cause of action or a defense thereto. (Aguilar, supra, 25 Cal.4th at 850.) The plaintiff may not rely upon the mere allegations or denials of its pleadings to show that a triable issue of material fact exists but, instead, shall set forth the specific facts showing that a triable issue of material fact exists as to that cause of action or a defense thereto. (Ibid.) To establish a triable issue of material fact, the party opposing the motion must produce substantial responsive evidence. (Sangster v. Paetkau (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 151, 166.)
KB argues that they are entitled to summary adjudication on their first cause of action for breach of the settlement agreement because it is undisputed that Godzik breached the 18-month time limitation in which to perform construction work on the driveway at issue. (Motion at pp. 8–9.) KB also argues that they should prevail on the second cause of action for breach of the easement, because Godzik breached the provision of that easement requiring her to maintain the easement in good condition and in such a way that doesn’t interfere with KB’s property. (Motion at pp. 8–10.) Finally, KB argues that they are entitled to a judicial declaration that Godzik is no lo longer able to perform construction work on the driveway that is the subject of Easement B, and cannot install lighting in the area designated Easement E. (Motion at pp. 10–20.)
The elements of a breach of contract claim are “(1) the contract, (2) plaintiff's performance or excuse for nonperformance, (3) defendant's breach, and (4) the resulting damages to plaintiff.” (Coles v. Glaser (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 384, 391.)
KB directs this court to paragraph 4.b.3 of the settlement agreement executed in October 2006, which states:
GODZIK shall complete the installation of any wall coverings allowed in Section 4(b)(4), the repaving of the northern driveway on the Godzik Property and Amended Easement B, and the installation of her entryway steps within the earlier of: (1) one year from the date she receives a Notice from K-B that construction of the Entry Way has been completed; or (2) eighteen months following recordation of the Amended Easement B.
(Kuebler Decl. Exh. 2, ¶ 4.b.3.)
The settlement agreement contains the additional provision:
Amended Easement B shall include the recitation that any work performed in or on Amended Easement B by Godzik must be done in a professional manner by a licensed contractor. Further, prior to the commencement of any such work, a licensed geologist or structural engineer must confirm that the proposed work will not have a detrimental impact on, or material increase the risk of damage to, the servient tenement.
(Kuebler Decl. Exh. 2, ¶ 4.b.7.)
Finally, KB points to a provision of Amended Easement B, which states:
Godzik and all her successors and assigns will maintain landscaping, lighting, irrigation, underground utilities and hardscape in good condition, and no use shall be made of the easement area which will interfere with the Grantors’ or their successors and or assigns’ quiet enjoyment of their property. All landscaping shall be maintained and irrigated by Godzik, her successors or assigns.
(Kuebler Decl. Exh. 5.)
KB argues that there are no triable issues as to whether the agreements exist or whether they performed their end of the bargain, which consisted of dismissing their prior lawsuit, paying Godzik $20,000, and recording Amended Easement B. (Motion at pp. 8–9.) KB further argues that no triable issues exist as to whether Godzik breached the settlement agreement, both because she commenced re-paving work in her northern driveway in July 2015, about nine years after the 18-month period for completing the work expired. (Kuebler Decl. ¶ 9.)
KB further argues that the settlement agreement was breached because Godzik’s work was not done, as required, by a licensed contractor, and because no licensed geologist or structural engineer confirmed the non-detrimental impact of the work. (Motion at p. 4.)
Additionally, KB argues that both the settlement agreement and the terms of Amended Easement B were violated because Godzik’s work prompted the City of Los Angeles to issue orders against KB to cease the work, for which no permits had been issued, created a drainage hazard directing water onto KB’s property, and required KB to expend funds to restore the damaged areas in compliance with the order. (Motion at pp. 5–7; Kuebler Decl. ¶¶ 10–18.)
Godzik responds that Amended Easement B is perpetual and “exclusive” in favor of Godzik and her successors, and expressly gives her and her successors the obligation to “maintain landscaping, lighting, irrigation, underground utilities and hardscape in good condition,” meaning that it bestows on Godzik the right to perform the same construction work of which KB now complains. (Opposition at pp. 13–15.) Godzik characterizes the present motion and action as an attempt by KB to extinguish the easement by subjecting it to an 18-month time-limitation, rather than giving it the perpetuity contemplated in its terms. (Opposition at pp. 19–20.)
Godzik further argues that the actual activities that KB complains of in Amended Easement B all complied with the settlement agreement and easement because they “were limited to replacing her driveway with a flat stone driveway, hardscape, landscape and accident lighting,” as provided in the easement. (Opposition at p. 22.) Moreover, Godzik contends that the work was approved by a licensed contractor, engineer, and geologist, and that no permits were required on the work. (Opposition at p. 23.)
Godzik also argues that triable issues of fact exist as to whether the statute of limitations has run on any breach of contract claim for Amended Easement B, since KB has known of Godzik’s use of the easement since 2007. (Opposition at pp. 25–26.)
A significant portion of this dispute concerns contract interpretation, specifically concerning the effect of the 18-month time-limitation contained in the settlement agreement.
Where the meaning of the words used in a contract is disputed, the trial court must provisionally receive any proffered extrinsic evidence which is relevant to show whether the contract is reasonably susceptible of a particular meaning. Indeed, it is reversible error for a trial court to refuse to consider such extrinsic evidence on the basis of the trial court's own conclusion that the language of the contract appears to be clear and unambiguous on its face. Even if a contract appears unambiguous on its face, a latent ambiguity may be exposed by extrinsic evidence which reveals more than one possible meaning to which the language of the contract is yet reasonably susceptible.
The interpretation of a contract involves a two-step process: First the court provisionally receives (without actually admitting) all credible evidence concerning the parties' intentions to determine ambiguity, i.e., whether the language is reasonably susceptible to the interpretation urged by a party. If in light of the extrinsic evidence the court decides the language is reasonably susceptible to the interpretation urged, the extrinsic evidence is then admitted to aid in the second step—interpreting the contract. The trial court's determination of whether an ambiguity exists is a question of law, subject to independent review on appeal. The trial court's resolution of an ambiguity is also a question of law if no parol evidence is admitted or if the parol evidence is not in conflict. However, where the parol evidence is in conflict, the trial court's resolution of that conflict is a question of fact and must be upheld if supported by substantial evidence. Furthermore, when two equally plausible interpretations of the language of a contract may be made parol evidence is admissible to aid in interpreting the agreement, thereby presenting a question of fact which precludes summary judgment if the evidence is contradictory.
(Wolf v. Superior Court (2004) 114 Cal.App.4th 1343, 1350–51, internal citations, quotation marks, and alterations omitted.)
KB argues that the language in the settlement agreement states that Godzik “shall complete . . . the repaving of the northern driveway on the Godzik Property and Amended Easement B . . . within . . . eighteen months following recordation of the Amended Easement B,” and thus that Godzik’s failure to complete the repaving within this period, and subsequent initiation of repaving efforts in 2015, is a breach of the agreement. (Motion at pp. 2–3.) Kubler testifies that the timing provision was an important part of the settlement agreement because Godzik had maintained open, unfinished construction projects on the property since before KB moved in, and KB did not want further open-ended construction. (Kuebler Decl. ¶ 5.) Godzik responds that interpreting the language in this way operates as an extinguishment of the easement, contradicted by the perpetuity envisioned for Amended Easement B in its own terms. (Godzik Decl. ¶¶ 18–23.) Godzik’s lawyer, Cynthia Hall, who negotiated the first settlement agreement, testifies that none of KB’s then-lawyers brought up this issue in settlement negotiations. (Hall Decl. ¶ 35.) Godzik testifies that the impetus for the provision was the relative timing of both parties’ then-contemplated construction projects — KB’s re-constructing of an entryway in conjunction with Godzik’s own re-paving of the driveway — as indicated in the preceding clause of the agreement describing the parameters for KB’s own construction project. (Hall Decl. ¶ 34.)
Triable issues of fact prevent summary adjudication of this issue in KB’s favor. The parties present alternative constructions of the time-limiting clause and conflicting extrinsic evidence based on the recollections of the parties and their representatives as to the purpose of the provision and its effect on Godzik’s future rights. On one hand, KB presents evidence that they intended the provision to limit Godzik’s ability to re-pave the driveway into the future. The text of the clause is indeed susceptible to such an interpretation, and this reading is relatively straightforward. But on the other hand, Godzik presents evidence that the clause was intended to operate more narrowly in relation to particular projects then under discussion by both parties, not as a general bar to any future repaving work on the driveway and easement. The clause’s text is also susceptible to this construction, as it does not refer to repaving in general terms but to “the repaving of the northern driveway,” as though it were a particular project then under consideration.
Additionally, the court notes that the text does not limit itself to Easement Area B, but embraces “the northern driveway on the Godzik Property and Amended Easement B.” (Kuebler Decl. Exh. 2, ¶ 4.b.3, italics added.) Godzik testifies that she did not intend by this provision to enact a general restriction on her ability to perform work on her own driveway, concededly within her property, and this interpretation, supported by her testimony as to her intent and certain portions of the text, is reasonable. (Rendon Decl. Exh. G, pp. 100–104.) Moreover, since the settlement agreement and the easement were executed close in time to one another and ought to be construed together (See Civ. Code § 1641), it is a reasonable argument that a far-reaching time-limitation of the settlement agreement might contradict the requirement of the amended easement that Godzik and her successors maintain the easement area. Indeed, Godzik testifies that the 2015 repaving project was intended in precisely this spirit. (Godzik Decl. ¶¶ 29–30.)
“[W]hen two equally plausible interpretations of the language of a contract may be made parol evidence is admissible to aid in interpreting the agreement, thereby presenting a question of fact which precludes summary judgment if the evidence is contradictory.” (Wolf, supra, 114 Cal.App.4th at p. 1351.) This being the precise situation here, the court cannot grant summary adjudication as to this cause of action. For the same reasons, summary adjudication of KB’s Declaratory Relief claims is improper. (Motion at pp. 10–16.)
KB presents a variety of other breaches separate from the “timing” breach, these being: (1) that the 2015 work was not performed by a licensed contractor, as required by paragraph 4.b.7 of the settlement agreement; (2) that licensed geologist or structural engineer certified the work as being non-detrimental to KB’s property; (3) that the work caused an Order to Comply to issue against KB, requiring KB to expend thousands of dollars to rectify the work. (Motion at pp. 7–10.) For the same reason, KB argues that Amended Easement B was itself violated, particularly the provision requiring Godzik to maintain the easement in such a way as not to interfere with KB’s quiet enjoyment of their own property. (Motion at pp. 7–10.)
Triable issues of fact prevent adjudication of these issues as well. First, although KB argues that the work was unlicensed and not preceded by analysis of its potential detriment to their property, Godzik testifies that licensed contractors performed the work and that she had the work reviewed by a licensed geologist for just these issues. (Godzik Decl. ¶ 35.)
Nor may summary adjudication be had of the issue related to the order to comply and KB’s remedial measures. The facts presented by KB are that they received a Order to Comply from the Los Angeles City Inspector after reporting Godzik’s work, ordering KB to stop all movement of soils and to install erosion control devices and to submit soils reports, restore natural slopes, and obtain required permits. (Kuebler Decl. ¶ 11, Exh. 11.) KB then exchanged correspondence with Godzik, and Godzik claimed a willingness to cooperate, but requested KB’s permission on a permit to restore the hillside. (Kuebler Decl. Exh. 12.) Godzik refused to provide reports showing that the work proposed would not have any detrimental impact on KB’s property. (Kuebler Decl. ¶ 12.) KB claims that Godzik continued work on her project in violation of the order, prompting KB to call the police. (Kuebler Decl. ¶ 13.) Godzik, meanwhile, claims that she only continued the work that she was informed she needed to complete in order to render her property in compliance with the order to comply. (Godzik Decl. ¶ 38.) KB claims to have later found that Godzik had sought permits, but only those seeking their approval of a retaining wall and drainage project that KB claims was unrelated to the order to comply. (Kuebler Decl. ¶¶ 16–17, Exh. 14.) In KB’s narrative, they ultimately performed the remediation work, spending $13,296.64 to do so. (Kuebler Decl. ¶ 18.) Godzik, however, maintains that she was informed by a city inspector that in order to bring her work into compliance, she had to “finish [her] work on the flower bed and prepare an as-is survey,” the latter of which was completed but the former and was prevented by KB. (Godzik Decl. ¶¶ 38–39.) Although the record establishes that Godzik sought and obtained no permits before intiating her 2015 work, she testifies that she had checked with the city and her contractors before initiating the work, and was informed that no permits were in fact necessary. (Rendon Decl. Exh. G at p. 142; Godzik Decl. ¶ 35.) Although KB in reply characterizes Godzik’s testimony as “lying” (Reply at p. 12), the court is unable to weigh the evidence in the manner that KB desires, when the evidence that Godzik presents is susceptible to an interpretation that she acted reasonably pursuant to her rights under the easement. (See Colarossi v. Coty US Inc. (2002) 97 al.App.4th 1142, 1149; Dolnikov v. Ekizian (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 419, 428–29 [stating that dominant estate holder’s use of easement is governed by rule of reason, depending on circumstances of easement’s creation and use].)
Accordingly, the Motion for Summary Judgment and Adjudication is DENIED.
 KB in reply note that the restriction on Godzik’s ability to perform construction is personal to Godzik, while her successors, as stated in the Easement, remain free to do the work. (Reply at p. 5.) This is true, and is a factor that favors KB’s interpretation, but it is not dispositive.
 Summary adjudication likewise cannot be had for KB’s other declaratory relief request — that Godzik be allowed no right to install lighting on the Easement E area (Motion at p. 16) — since the easement E issue is not pleaded in KB’s Complaint. (See Hutton v. Fidelity National Title Co. (2013) 213 Cal.App.4th 486, 513 [“The function of the pleadings in a motion for summary judgment is to delimit the scope of the issues’ ” and to frame “the outer measure of materiality in a summary judgment proceeding.”].)
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