Goodkin & Lynch Prevails On Appeal In Backyard Boundary Dispute

Shoen v. Zacarias (2015) 237 Cal.App.4th 16:
The firm represented Plaintiff and Appellant Lilli Shoen. After a trial court ruled against Ms. Shoen, the firm appealed the case to the California Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal held that defendant/appellee Zacarias had no right to an equitable easement over the property of her neighbor, plaintiff/appellant Shoen, regardless of how desirable the property was to Zacarias, and regardless of the lack of use by Shoen.

The Shoen matter concerned two abutting residential properties in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles. In 2011, after acquiring the subject property, Shoen requested that Zacarias remove her personal property and stop trespassing on this portion of Shoen’s land. Zacarias refused and the parties eventually ended up at trial with competing claims. Zacarias also claimed, as an affirmative defense to the trespass claim, that she held an equitable easement over the land. The trial court granted Zacarias "an exclusive, 15-year equitable easement over the patch of land contingent upon paying of $5,000 to Shoen." Shoen v. Zacarias, 237 Cal.App.4th 16, 18-19. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision.

The Court in Shoen clarified the existing standard, enunciated in cases like Christensen v. Tucker and Hirshfield v. Schwartz by evaluating the competing claims and holding that "a trespasser’s hardship in having to remove her portable patio furniture does not qualify" as a "greatly disproportionate hardship." Shoen v. Zacarias, 237 Cal.App.4th 16, 18. See also Christensen v. Tucker (1952) 114 Cal.App.2d 554,562-563, Hirshfield v. Schwartz (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 749, 759-760; Tashakori v. Lakis (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 1003, 1009; Field-Escandon v. DeMann (1988) 204 Cal.App.3d 228, 237.

The Court in Shoen ultimately compared the hardship of Shoen (losing exclusive use of her own property) to the alleged hardship of Zacarias (losing the extra back yard space) and found that the hardship of Zacarias was not "greatly disproportionate" to that of Zacarias. The Court explained "at most, Zacarias loses the benefit of her use of the patch of land but deprivation of a substantial benefit falls short of the imposition of a substantial hardship." Shoen v. Zacarias, 237 Cal.App.4th 16, 21.

Goodkin & Lynch Secures Favorable Verdict In ADA Compliance Lawsuit

In a complex jury trial focused on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Dan Goodkin won a favorable verdict in Los Angeles Superior Court regarding alleged non-compliance issues at the high-profile Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, home of the Academy Awards. The jury verdict awarded compensation to the client, an important real estate owner/developer, for errors in the original construction of the theatre by a nationally recognized general contractor. In addition, Goodkin & Lynch obtained a favorable settlement of attorneys' fees.

Built in 2001 by a separate development entity, the Kodak Theatre was acquired by the client in 2004 and quickly came under fire from various advocacy groups for the disabled, citing insufficient accessibility for wheelchairs. The issues in question concerned defective concrete surfaces that presented a barrier for wheelchair access in certain areas, as well as the facility's lack of adequate wheelchair locations, making additional platforms necessary. Eight years of multiparty litigation followed, with the goal of determining which parties were responsible for remedying the original construction errors.

Goodkin & Lynch Wins 12-0 Jury Decision re Letter of Intent Defendant

In a case involving a letter of intent, Goodkin & Lynch successfully represented a defendant/seller against claims involving a letter of intent for the sale of its 80 percent interest in an engine-testing laboratory to the plaintiff/buyer for three million dollars. During the negotiations, the plaintiff-buyer attempted to obtain a loan, rather than equity, to consummate the sale, leading to complications in closing the sale. Additionally, during the negotiations, the original lender threatened to sue the client if the sale was completed without its consent.

Ultimately, the client seller transferred its interest in the laboratory to the original lender in exchange for a release of all rights under its loan documents. When the original lender did not complete the sale to the buyer, the plaintiff-buyer filed suit against G&L's client. G&L defended the client against claims of breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and intentional misrepresentation/fraud, for which plaintiff-buyer sought recovery of lost profits and punitive damages in excess of two million dollars.

Goodkin & Lynch Gains Summary Judgment, Dismissal in Lease Case

In a complex lease interpretation case, G&L represented the owner of a large medical building against a tenant physician who attempted to enforce an alleged option to renew included in the tenant's lease. G&L argued on behalf of the landlord that the option was unenforceable due to lack of certainty and lack of essential terms necessary to make it enforceable. G&L filed a motion for summary judgment to contravene multiple delaying tactics on the part of the tenant's counsel and avoid a lengthy and costly trial. At the hearing, the Court agreed with G&L and ruled in favor of the landlord, granting summary judgment in its favor and awarding possession and daily damages to the client. G&L also obtained a dismissal of the tenant's claims in a related action for breach of contract, unfair competition, declaratory relief and injunctive relief, and collected attorneys' fees incurred by the landlord in prosecuting the action against the tenant.

Goodkin & Lynch Wins Appeal Concerning the Enforceability of Arbitration Provisions in CC & Rs

In a lawsuit involving the enforceability of an arbitration provision in the CC & Rs for a large mixed use residential project in downtown Los Angeles, G & L represented the developer against homeowners who attempted to defeat the arbitration requirement. When the homeowners refused to voluntarily submit their claims to arbitration, G & L petitioned the Los Angeles Superior Court to enforce the arbitration provision. The trial court found in favor of the homeowners and G & L appealed to the California Court of Appeal. The issue presented on appeal was whether the arbitration provision in the CC & Rs was procedurally and substantively unconscionable. Following oral argument, G & L obtained a unanimous opinion from the Second Appellate District in favor of the developer overturning the trial court's determination that the arbitration provision was unenforceable.