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Lee v. Lee

July 29, 2009

GE LEE ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND RESPONDENTS,
v.
GEORGE TONG LEE ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Fresno County Superior Court. Adolfo M. Corona, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. 05 CECG 03705).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Levy, Acting P.J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Appellants, George Tong Lee (George) and Kathy Maiker Lee (Kathy), challenge the trial court's finding that their interest in property owned by various members of the Lee family was validly transferred to respondent, Fue Sue Lee (Fue Sue).*fn1 Appellants acknowledge that, following their request that the property be sold, they received $50,000 from George's mother and brother pursuant to an oral agreement. Appellants assert this payment was a no interest loan. In contrast, George's mother and brother contend they bought George and Kathy's interest. Four years after receiving the payment, George and Kathy executed and delivered a quit claim deed that transferred their interest in the property to Fue Sue.

Appellants argue the sale of their property interest violated the statute of frauds and therefore is invalid. Appellants further contend that the quit claim deed was not sufficient to take the transaction outside the statute of frauds. Additionally, appellants assert that the trial court erred when it failed to exclude certain promissory notes that were produced only a few days before trial.

As discussed below, the deed was an executed contract and, as such, validly transferred the real property interest. Further, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted the disputed evidence. Accordingly, the judgment will be affirmed.

BACKGROUND

In 1985, numerous members of the Lee family pooled their resources to purchase four contiguous five-acre parcels. Appellants owned a 50 percent interest in one of the parcels, referred to as "Lot 5."

In 1998, George spoke to his mother, Yeng Yang Lee (Yeng), about selling Lot 5. However, Yeng did not want to sell. Thereafter, George and Yeng orally agreed that George would receive $50,000. Yeng and George's brother, Vah Houa Lee (Vah), borrowed this money from other relatives and friends. These loans have been repaid.

Appellants argued that this $50,000 payment was an interest free loan to be paid back when Lot 5 was eventually sold. However, Yeng and Vah testified that they purchased George and Kathy's interest in Lot 5. Vah further testified that, despite this purchase, the family wanted George to keep his name on the property because he is both educated and fluent in English.

In 2002, George was facing a lawsuit and decided he should have his name taken off the Lot 5 deed. George and Kathy prepared and executed a quit claim deed conveying their interest in the subject property to Fue Sue. The consideration for the transfer was noted as "GIFT." Fue Sue is Vah's only child. George had Fue Sue also sign the deed and then sent it to relatives for recording. George, Kathy and Fue Sue were living in South Carolina at the time. However, before the deed was recorded, someone added Ge Lee (Ge) and Vong Lee as additional grantees.

In 2005, George had Fue Sue execute a deed reconveying Lot 5 to himself and Kathy.

Respondents Ge and Fue Sue filed the underlying complaint against appellants alleging causes of action for quiet title, slander of title, fraud, cancellation of instrument, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and constructive trust.

Following a bench trial, the court found that the $50,000 payment to George was a buyout of appellants' interest in Lot 5, not a loan. As to the 2002 deed, the court held that appellants did not intend to convey their interest to Ge and Vong Lee and therefore the transfer was invalid as to those grantees. However, the transfer to Fue Sue remained valid. The court further found that the 2005 deed to George was procured by misrepresentation and therefore was invalid. Accordingly, the court ruled in favor of Fue Sue and Ge on the ...


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