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Results 2010

MELODY ANGELES-RIPARIP vs. GOOGOL, LLC, AND RICHTOWN REALTY
Jury Trial July 2010
Christopher E. Faenza; Sung Ho (Sean) Kim

Christopher Faenza and Sean Kim obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Richtown Realty and a nonsuit in favor of Googol, LLC, in a lawsuit brought by plaintiff for fraud and punitive damages.

On April 5, 2005, plaintiff and defendant Googol, LLC, executed a commercial lease agreement. Richtown Realty was the broker for the lease agreement and also served as the property management company for the subject premise. The lease agreement allowed plaintiff to use certain space for a health care facility for a period of five years, with an additional five-year option.

Plaintiff contended that she was promised, both prior to and after the execution of the agreement, reimbursement or an offset of tenant improvement in the incurred amount of over $150,000. In that regard, plaintiff proceeded to trial on causes of action for fraud in the inducement of the commercial lease agreement and breach of oral modification of commercial lease agreement. Plaintiff also sought punitive damages.

Defendants contested liability on the basis that defendants never made any misrepresentations or promises to plaintiff in relation to tenant improvements. Moreover, defendant Googol, LLC, contended that it never provided authority for nor ratified any such alleged conduct. Both defendants contended that the lease agreement, and the provisions therein, did not support plaintiff's claim. In that regard, Mr. Faenza and Mr. Kim focused on the absence of written documentation suggesting that defendants had, in fact, promised reimbursement or offsets of tenant improvement incurred by plaintiff. Moreover, even if the jury found that defendants made fraudulent misrepresentations, then plaintiff should have discovered the same on April 5, 2005, date of execution of the lease agreement, which would trigger the statute of limitations.

Prior to trial, plaintiff's cause of action for breach of oral modification of commercial lease agreement was dismissed after submission of jury instructions. Mr. Faenza and Mr. Kim submitted special jury instructions, in which they cited Civil Code § 1624, which requires leases of land for more than one year to be in writing.

This case was tried in Los Angeles County, in Pomona, before the Honorable Peter Meeka. The trial lasted for one week.

After the completion of plaintiff's case-in-chief, the court granted Googol, LLC's motion for nonsuit. After approximately two hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Richtown Realty on the remaining cause of action for fraud.

DELGADO vs. LONG BEACH MEMORIAL
Summary Judgment September 7, 2010
Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith obtained summary judgment on behalf of a funeral home in this unusual case involving the wrongful harvesting of the decedent's corneas. The decedent, a twenty nine year old woman, died from complications of childbirth at Long Beach Memorial Hospital. Her family retained the firm's client, Grupo Deco funeral home, to attend to the remains and arrange for services. After a second, private autopsy, it was discovered that decedent's corneas had been harvested at some point despite a lack of consent from the family. Plaintiffs alleged that one or more of the defendants wrongfully harvested the corneas. However, Plaintiffs could not identify any wrongful act of the firm's client nor could they produce any evidence as to the condition of the decedent's remains at any point in time when the remains were in the client's custody. Based upon this lack of evidence and an inability of plaintiffs to demonstrate that this matter was one of res ipsa loquitor, the firm successfully obtained summary judgment on behalf of the funeral home.

PACIFIC BELL vs. RICHMOND AMERICAN HOMES
Summary Judgment November, 2010
Stephen Smith; Sung Ho (Sean) Kim

Stephen Smith and Sung Ho (Sean) Kim obtained summary judgment on behalf of a construction contractor, Pouk & Steinle, Inc., in a lawsuit brought by Pacific Bell. Plaintiff, Pacific Bell, claimed that Pouk & Steinle caused or was responsible for damages of over $160,000 to its telecommunication cables while development and/or construction was ongoing along Harbor Boulevard, in Orange County. The alleged damages occurred on November 14, 2006, and on November 22, 2006.

Defendant, Pouk & Steinle, contended that it was not responsible for the November 14, 2006, incident, because certified payroll records showed that Pouk & Steinle was not on-site and, thus, did not perform any work for the subject construction project from November 11, 2006 through November 19, 2006. Accordingly, the November 14, 2006, incident was not caused by Pouk & Steinle.

With regard to the November 22, 2006, incident, Pouk & Steinle, was able to establish that another subcontractor was responsible for and/or caused that incident.

Based on the foregoing, the court found that Pouk & Steinle sustained its initial substantive burden of proof, so the burden shifted to plaintiff to establish a triable issue of material fact. To meet this burden, plaintiff offered the declaration from another subcontractor, which relied on inadmissible hearsay. The court held that plaintiff failed to overcome its burden to create a triable issue of fact. Accordingly, summary judgment was granted in favor of Pouk & Steinle.

PANORAMA TOWER TENANTS ASSOC. vs. HOLLYWOOD PANORAMA TOWER, INC.
Summary Judgment December 10, 2010
Stephen H. Smith; Christopher P. Leyel

Stephen Smith & Chris Leyel obtain summary judgment in this commercial fire loss case.

On December 6, 2001, an electrical fire took place in the subterranean vault of a 20-story commercial office property known as the Hollywood Panorama Tower. The building was owned by Hollywood Panorama Towers, Inc. (HPT). The building is located at the corner of Sunset and Vine Boulevards in the heart of downtown Hollywood. Tenants included accountants, law firms, a local radio station, an investment firm, realtors, small production companies, and other small businesses. The precise cause of the electrical fire was disputed.

As a result of the electrical fire all electricity to the building was lost and the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety denied both the tenants and its owners any access to the building except by special permit. The damage to the building's electrical infrastructure was extensive and power could not be restored without major repairs to the building and the power supply equipment operated by the Department of Water & Power.

On June 27, 2002, six tenants brought suit collectively as the Hollywood Panorama Tower Tenant's Association ("Tenants Assoc.") against the owner of the building, HPT. Each of the tenants had been leasing space in the building at the time of the electrical outage. The Tenants Assoc. alleged millions of dollars in damages based upon claims of breach of contract, negligence, fraud and deceit, conversion, constructive trust and others.

In July 2003, the Tenants Assoc. commenced an involuntary bankruptcy case against HPT under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. In November of 2003, the matter was converted into a Chapter 11 proceeding and reorganization efforts began on behalf of the building's owner. By this time, the building was still without power and all tenants had been displaced.

Displaced tenant Blue Light Productions claimed $183,316 in damages. Displaced tenant Chapman Investigations claimed $303,880 in damages. Displaced tenant Reibsamen, Nickels & Rex claimed damages of $160,174. Displaced tenant Hollywood Damage Control & Recovery claimed $1,250,000 and displaced tenant DJ Union claimed $150,000 in losses. Lastly, displaced tenant RCM Technologies claimed $6,000,000 in damages.

During the pendency of the bankruptcy matter the claims of several tenants were litigated and many were resolved. Meanwhile, the litigation in the state court was stayed for several years pending the bankruptcy pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §362.

The claims of six members of the Tenants Assoc. went unresolved through the bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court eventually lifted the automatic stay and ordered the parties to litigate their state law liability claims in the state court.

HPT filed a motion for summary judgment on September 22, 2010, seeking to have all of the remaining tenants' claims dismissed for lack of evidence and upon various legal theories including waiver, estoppel and failure to establish legal causation.

On December 10, 2010, the trial court granted HPT's motion for summary judgment in its entirety after granting most of defendant's evidentiary objections. The court further determined that the plaintiffs had failed to come forward with sufficient evidence to establish a triable issue of material fact as to any of the causes of action stated in plaintiff's complaint. In July 2011, the court awarded Yoka & Smith's clients approximately $1.6 million in attorneys' fees as a result of the judgment in their favor.

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