Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lewis v. Superior Court case brief

Lewis v. Superior Court case brief summary
37 Cal. Rptr. 2d 63 (1994)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Petitioner buyers filed a writ seeking relief from an order of respondent judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles (California), denying their motion for summary judgment and motion for expungement of lis pendens of real party in interest insurer in an action arising out of the purchase and sale of real estate.

CASE FACTS
Petitioner buyers sought relief from an order of respondent judge of the trial court, denying their motion for summary judgment and denying their motion for expungement of a lis pendens. Petitioners entered into an agreement to purchase the property from the seller. Unbeknownst to them, real party in interest insurer had filed a lis pendens on the property, which was not indexed at the time petitioners received their deed. Petitioners did not receive notice of the lis pendens until 19 months after they acquired the property, which they had paid for in cash. The trial court denied their motion for summary judgment, finding that they had constructive notice of the lien.

DISCUSSION

  • The court reversed, finding that there was no constructive notice to petitioners of the lis pendens. 
  • The court held that where little of the purchase price remained unpaid, or where substantial improvements had been made prior to notice, equity demanded that petitioners retain the property and that the defrauded party be limited to money damages. 
  • The court further held that the claims against the seller all involved alleged fraud and conversion, not disputes over title, and that therefore the lis pendens was invalid.
CONCLUSION
The court issued the writ to respondent judge to reverse the order denying petitioner buyers' motion for summary judgment, and to thereafter issue a new and different order granting the motion and expunging the lis pendens. The court held that where little of the purchase price remained to be paid, equity demanded that petitioners retain title. Petitioners were also granted recovery of costs associated with the proceedings.


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