Thursday, September 23, 2021

Kahn v. Price (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 22, 2021)

It's a fight between two neighbors, both of whom live in fancy San Francisco homes.  One of 'em has some amazing views of the skyline, the Bay, the Golden Gate bridge, etc.  But then a "voluntary" Monterey pine seedling starts to grow -- rapidly -- on the neighbor's property.  Eventually, the tree starts blocking a ton of the neighbor's great view, so after a lengthy administrative process, the neighbor sues.

The neighbor with the blocked view prevails.  The tree's ordered to come down.  The Court of Appeal affirms.

All that's marginally interesting, but not why I mention the case.

During the litigation, the defendant neighbor (and counsel) discover that the plaintiff took out a big reverse mortgage on their home, and that this mortgage required that the San Francisco place be her primary residence.  It turned out, however, that the plaintiff had filed a declaration in (tax-free) Florida that Florida was her primary residence, and that she moved to Florida in 2008 and had no intention to return to California.

Which is pretty much irrelevant to the lawsuit, but which nonetheless does make the plaintiff look bad.

So defendant files a motion to "dismiss" the lawsuit on an extraordinarily dubious claim that the plaintiff wasn't the "owner" of the property (even though she clearly was) because her fraud might perhaps make the bank foreclose.  And then, just-so-coincidentally, counsel for defendant calls and writes the loan company, gives 'em details, and includes the pleading it files -- which prompts the bank to show up at the hearing and initiate proceedings to terminate the loan.

The trial court ain't having any of that.  Not only does it deny the motion, but it finds that the efforts to queer the mortgage were bad faith litigation tactics, and imposes bad faith sanctions of $47,345.30 jointly and severally on defendant and "their trial counsel William S. Weisberg and the law firm of Weisberg & Miller."  (Parenthetically, Mr. Weisberg's firm website proclaims:  "Prior to cofounding Weisberg & Miller, William Weisberg worked as a senior associate attorney at a major insurance defense law firm in San Francisco. . . . Mr. Weisberg maintains a strong reputation among his clients and adversaries as an aggressive litigator. . . ."  True that, I guess.)

The Court of Appeal not only affirms, but also drops a footnote:  "We assume the trial court and attorney Weisberg have already reported the judicially imposed sanctions to the State Bar of California. (Bus. & Prof. Code, §§ 6068, subd. (o)(3) [attorney self-reporting duties]; 6086.7, subd. (a)(3) [court reporting duties].)"