Disposed - Judgment Entered
Contract - Other Contract
TIMOTHY PATRICK DILLON
DANIEL S. MURPHY
BMW OF NORTH AMERICA LLC
ROSENSTEIN MICHAEL H.
HAW CHRISTINE J.
TAKAHASHI BRIAN ESQ.
6/11/2019: Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore
7/8/2019: Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore
8/14/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (JURY TRIAL)
11/18/2019: Order - ORDER RE MOTION TO TAX COSTS
11/15/2019: Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore
11/15/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION TO TAX COSTS)
11/18/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (RULING ON SUBMITTED MATTER)
11/18/2019: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (RULING ON SUBMITTED MATTER) OF 11/18/2019
11/5/2019: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)
11/1/2019: Opposition - OPPOSITION OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE AND/OR TAX DEFENDANT'S FEES AND COSTS
10/9/2019: Memorandum of Costs (Summary)
10/22/2019: Motion to Tax Costs
9/20/2019: Judgment - JUDGMENT - JUDGMENT ON THE VERDICT - AFTER JURY TRIAL - 09/20/2019 ENTERED FOR DEFENDANT BMW OF NORTH AMERICA, LLC AGAINST PLAINTIFF JOE BILOTTA.
9/24/2019: Judgment on Special Verdict
9/24/2019: Notice of Entry of Judgment / Dismissal / Other Order
9/19/2019: Notice of Posting of Jury Fees
9/20/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: PROOF OF JUDGMENT BEING SUBMITTED AND...)
8/13/2019: Stipulation Re: Jury (Civil Trials)
Docketat 10:36 AM in Department 32, Timothy Patrick Dillon, Presiding; Ruling on Submitted Matter[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketMinute Order ( (Ruling on Submitted Matter)); Filed by Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOrder (re Motion to Tax Costs); Filed by Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketCertificate of Mailing for ((Ruling on Submitted Matter) of 11/18/2019); Filed by Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 32, Timothy Patrick Dillon, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Tax Costs - Held - Taken under Submission[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Motion to Tax Costs)); Filed by Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOrder Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOrder Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketProof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by BMW of North America, LLC (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOpposition (Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Strike and/or Tax Defendant's Fees and Costs); Filed by BMW of North America, LLC (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketCIVIL DEPOSIT[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
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DocketDEFENDANT BMW OF NORTH AMERICA, LLC'S ANSWER TO COMPLAINT; JURY DEMAND[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketAnswer; Filed by BMW of North America, LLC (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
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DocketProof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by Joe Bilotta (Plaintiff)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
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Case Number: ****2413 Hearing Date: November 15, 2019 Dept: 32
anastasia garcia & lester jovani garcia,
CARMEN SANCHEZ, et al.
Case No.: 19STCV12183
Hearing Date: November 15, 2019
[TENTATIVE] order RE:
motion to reclassify Action from unlimited to limited
Plaintiff Anastasia Garcia (“Anastasia”) and Lester Jovani Garcia (“Lester”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) commenced this action against Defendant Carmen Sanchez (“Defendant”) on April 8, 2019. The Complaint asserts causes of action for (1) breach of warranty of habitability, (2) breach of quiet enjoyment, (3) nuisance, (4) negligence, (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (6) violation of Civil Code section 1942.4, (7) retaliatory eviction, and (8) declaratory and injunctive relief. The Complaint alleges in pertinent part as follows.
Defendant is the owner and landlord of real property located at 2416 South Palm Grove Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90016 (“Property”). In 2015, Anastasia began renting the Property pursuant to a written lease. Plaintiffs both live at the Property and have made all payments and deposits owed under the lease. During their tenancy, the Property developed substandard conditions including insufficient plumbing and improperly installed electrical wiring and lighting. Plaintiffs’ requests to Defendant for repairs were ignored.
In October 2018, Anastasia contacted the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (“Department”) to report the substandard conditions. On November 16, 2018, a Department inspector visited the Property and issued a Notice and Order to Comply listing 14 different violations, four of which were designated “high” in severity level. A Department inspector revisited the Property in January 2019 and noted additional violations.
In November and December 2018, Defendant refused Plaintiffs’ attempts to pay their rent through a money order. Defendant demanded that Plaintiffs pay rent in cash. Plaintiffs were willing to pay rent in cash, but Defendant refused to provide receipts. In December 2018, Defendant issued a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. Faced with eviction, Plaintiffs retained counsel and paid the rent curing the notice. On January 10, 2019, Defendant again issued a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. On January 15, 2019, Defendant initiated an unlawful detainer action against Anastasia. On March 28, 2019, the UD action went to trial and the jury returned a verdict in Anastasia’s favor. The jury found that Defendant had filed the action in retaliation and bad faith. Later that same day, Defendant issued a third 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. To date, Defendant is demanding rent for the Property and has not corrected the violations cited by the Department.
A limited civil case is, inter alia, “[a] case at law in which the demand, exclusive of interest, or the value of the property in controversy amounts to twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) or less.” (CCP ; 86(a)(1).) An unlimited civil case is a civil action or proceeding other than a limited civil case. (CCP ; 88.)
“A trial court has authority to conduct a pretrial hearing [a Walker hearing] to obtain information about whether the amount of the judgment will require reclassification.” (Stern v. Superior Court (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 223, 229.) “Under the Walker standard, a matter may be reclassified as a limited civil action ‘when (i) the absence of jurisdiction is apparent before trial from the complaint, petition, or related documents, or (ii) during the course of pretrial litigation, it becomes clear that the matter will “necessarily” result in a verdict below the superior court's jurisdictional amount....’ ” (Ytuarte v. Superior Court (2005) 129 Cal.App.4th 266, 276.) Under the latter test, the trial court “must deny the motion to reclassify the case as limited (and thus keep the matter in the unlimited civil court) unless it appears to a legal certainty that the plaintiff’s damages will necessarily be less than $25,000. This standard of ‘legal certainty’ is not met when it appears a verdict within the unlimited court’s jurisdiction is ‘possible.’ ” (Id. at 277.)
“A party moving for reclassification should make a noticed motion.” (Stern, supra, 105 Cal.App.4th at 230.) “If a party files a motion for reclassification after the time for that party to … to respond to a complaint … , the court shall grant the motion and enter an order for reclassification only if both of the following conditions are satisfied: (1) The case is incorrectly classified [and] (2) The moving party shows good cause for not seeking reclassification earlier.” (CCP ; 403.040(b).)
REQUEST FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE
Plaintiffs’ requests for judicial notice are GRANTED. (Evid. Code ; 452(d).)
Defendant’s first evidentiary objection is SUSTAINED for failure to provide a certified deposition transcript. (CCP ; 2025.540.) Defendant’s second evidentiary objection is SUSTAINED for hearsay.
Defendant moves to reclassify this action as a limited civil case on the ground that the amount in controversy cannot possibly exceed $25,000. Because Defendant has already answered the Complaint, Defendant must make two showings: (1) a showing of good cause for not seeking reclassification earlier and (2) a showing that the case is incorrectly classified.
A. Good Cause
Defendant claims to have good cause for not seeking reclassification earlier. Defendant presents two reasons: (1) Defendant could not obtain the written lease agreement for the Property until mid-September 2019 (Sanchez Decl. ¶ 4-5) and (2) her present counsel was not retained until “in or around May 2019” and he needed time to research Plaintiffs’ claims and determine that the amount in controversy would fall short of $25,000 (Kosnett Decl. ¶ 2). This showing is thoroughly unpersuasive. Defendant was served with the Summons and Complaint in this action on April 10, 2019 and, according to Defendant’s counsel, he was retained “in or around May 2019.” This means that Defendant did not bring this motion for approximately six months after notice of the action and approximately four month after retaining counsel. Defendant’s counsel did not reasonably require four months to determine the approximate amount in controversy in this straight-forward landlord-tenant action. Further, Defendant has not explained how recent discovery of the parties’ written lease agreement supplies good cause or demonstrated reasonable diligence in attempting to obtain that lease since this action was filed.
Defendant has not shown good cause for not seeking reclassification earlier.
B. Propriety of Classification
Assuming arguendo that Defendant demonstrated good cause, the Court evaluates Defendant’s showing that this action is incorrectly classified.
To reiterate, Plaintiffs assert the following causes of action: (1) breach of warranty of habitability, (2) breach of quiet enjoyment, (3) nuisance, (4) negligence, (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (6) violation of Civil Code section 1942.4, (7) retaliatory eviction, and (8) declaratory and injunctive relief.
Defendant argues that Plaintiffs’ breach of warranty of habitability claim is predicated on “minor breaches at worst” which would not entitle them to a rent reduction. Defendant claims that, even assuming some rent reduction was due, this rent reduction could not rise to $25,000 because Plaintiffs have already withheld five months of rent to date and have only rented the Property since October 4, 2018.
Damages for an independent cause of action for breach of the implied warranty of habitability “should be limited to a refund of an amount which reflects the difference between the rent paid during the duration of the unfit condition and the rent which would have been reasonable, taking into account the extent to which the rental value of the property was reduced by virtue of the existence of the defect.” (Quevedo v. Braga (1977) 72 Cal.App.3d Supp. 1, 8 disapproved on other grounds by Knight v. Hallsthammar (1981) 29 Cal.3d 46.)
Defendant’s argument is unpersuasive. For one, Defendant has presented no evidence that these violations are indeed “minor” such that a full or major rent abatement would not be possible. Indeed, Defendant concedes that a Department Inspector issued a Notice and Order to Comply to Defendant which identified numerous substandard conditions, four of which were designated as “high” in severity. (Sanchez Decl. Ex. B.) This notice counsels a different conclusion. For another, Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs have only lived at the Property since October 2018 because the parties signed their written lease agreement in that month. However, Anastasia declares that she moved into the Property in 2015. (Anastasia Decl. ¶ 2.) Significant rent reduction from 2015 to the present for breach of the implied warranty of habitability could exceed $25,000.
In reply, Defendant argues that Anastasia’s claim extends, at most, back to April 2017 because her breach of implied warranty of habitability claim is based on an oral contract and thus carries a two-year statute of limitations (CCP ; 339). However, this argument ignores Anastasia’s averment that she entered into a written lease agreement in April 2015. (Anastasia Decl. ¶ 2.) Defendant has not adequately shown otherwise — Defendant has not averred that she did not enter into a lease with Plaintiff prior to October 2018. (Def. Decl. ¶ 2.) Moreover, even if Defendant made this averment, the trial court is tasked with evaluating “the amount fairly in controversy, not an adjudication of the merits of the claim.” (Ytuarte, supra, 129 Cal.App.4th at 277.) Anastasia’s declaration about the nature of the lease is sufficient to show that “the amount fairly in controversy” could include rent abatement pursuant to a written lease agreement and therefore could include rent abatement extending to 2015. (CCP ; 337(a).)
Defendant also claims that Plaintiffs’ retaliatory eviction must fail because she did not issue the 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit for a retaliatory purpose. Defendant provides no evidence to support this claim. Further, a lessor that commits a retaliatory eviction shall be liable to the lessee in a civil action for (1) the action damages sustained by the lessee and (2) punitive damages in an amount not less than $100 and no more than $2,000 for each retaliatory act. (Civil Code ; 1942.5(h).) Anastasia avers that Defendant’s actions have caused her to suffer emotional distress and forced her to seek professional therapy. (Anastasia Decl. ¶¶ 21-22.) Defendant has not shown that actual and punitive damages (including emotional distress damages) arising from her alleged retaliatory eviction would not exceed $25,000.
Defendant’s motion to reclassify is DENIED.
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