Philipa Eith, et al. v Jeffrey Ketelhut, et al. (Second Appellate District)
In 2015, Yoka & Smith obtained a defense verdict in a bench trial involving a dispute between certain property owners at a residential development in Ventura County. The dispute related to a wine making business operated by the Ketelhuts on their land and a small portion of the common area (0.4 acre). Plaintiff argued that the Ketelhuts violated the CC&R’s applicable to the development by operating a business on land situated in the development and by using common areas for such an enterprise. Plaintiff demanded that that the business should be closed. The homeowners’ association (HOA) told the Ketelhuts that their wine making operation did not violate the CC&Rs and allowed them to continue growing grapes. The trial judge ruled that the HOA was well within its discretion to make this determination and sided with the Ketelhuts and the HOA. Plaintiff appealed the adverse verdict on several grounds.
The primary issue to be decided on appeal was whether the trial court properly ruled that a determination made by the HOA in favor of the Ketelhuts should be left undisturbed. There are cases on both sides of the issue.
The Second Appellate District filed its opinion. Two justices (Pres. Justice Arthur Gilbert and Assoc. Justice S. Perren) joined in a 37-page opinion upholding the trial judge’s ruling. Justice Perren wrote separately to state his concurring opinion and in doing so cited to a famous line from Justice Potter Stewart.
Christine wrote a brief in support of the trial court’s determination and also briefed issues in a cross-appeal. She wrote the reply briefs and also argued the matter before the justices.