Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hoogenberg v. Simmons (Cal. Ct. App. - April 18, 2013)

You think your divorce proceedings were bad?  Listen to this one, which involves San Diego residents Tracy Hoogenberg and Buford Keith Simmons:

"The parties were married in May 2008 and separated one year later in May 2009. They have one child (Child) born in March 2009. On June 3, 2009, Tracy filed a petition for dissolution of their marriage. She requested that the court determine the parties' property rights and award custody of Child to her with visitation to Keith, and that the parties pay their own attorney fees.

What followed was an astoundingly lengthy, circuitous, and expensive course of litigation, particularly given that both parties had substantial financial assets and were married for a very brief time. Tracy had significant investment assets acquired after the death of her first husband. Keith owned a wetsuit business in La Jolla with two partners, and he had an ownership interest in a building in La Jolla.

For purposes of the current appeal, the case was finally resolved in July 2011, by which time Tracy had incurred more than $800,000 in attorney fees and costs. In its final decision, the trial court found the protracted litigation was due in large part to Keith's 'questionable legal tactics' (including his request to declare the marriage a nullity and failure to respond to discovery) and his hiring and firing of numerous attorneys. To support its sanctions award, the court concluded that Keith had failed to comply with 'even the most basic' financial disclosures; filed misleading and delayed disclosures; failed to fully disclose his assets; misused Tracy's computer hard-drive to disseminate her emails to third parties; failed to respond to discovery requests; failed to appear at his own deposition and trial; and acted intentionally and in bad faith. Based on these findings, the court ordered $150,000 in sanctions against Keith under section 2107 for breach of his fiduciary duties of disclosure, and $250,000 in sanctions under section 271 for his uncooperative conduct. Applying the remedy in section 1101, subdivision (h) for the fraudulent failure to disclose, the court also awarded Tracy the $245,850.24 value of Keith's separate property savings account."