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Dfp Ltd v. Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District

August 30, 2011

DFP LTD, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
SACRAMENTO REGIONAL COUNTY SANITATION DISTRICT, DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



(Super. Ct. No. CV10452)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Duarte , J.

DFP v. Sacramento Reg. County Sanitation Dist. CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Plaintiff DFP LTD sued defendant Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District, seeking to establish that defendant owns an easement over plaintiff's real property, rather than a fee interest. The trial court sustained a demurrer without leave to amend, finding plaintiff was collaterally estopped in this quiet title action by a nunc pro tunc order made by a different judge in a condemnation action filed by defendant against plaintiff's predecessor in interest. The nunc pro tunc order classified the portion of the property at issue as a fee interest, rather than an easement. It did not, however, address plaintiff's claimed status as a bona fide purchaser.

Plaintiff contends on appeal that the trial court erred when it determined that plaintiff's status as a bona fide purchaser was already decided in the condemnation proceeding. We agree.

As we will explain, defendant bore the burden to establish all the elements of collateral estoppel as the party seeking to use a prior order for its preclusive effect, including that the relevant issue was actually determined in the prior proceeding. As we discuss post, defendant has not demonstrated that the bona fide purchaser issue was actually determined in the prior case. Therefore, the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrer based on collateral estoppel. Because defendant presents no other ground to sustain the judgment, we shall reverse with directions to the trial court to overrule the demurrer.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

I

Introduction

When plaintiff purchased the property, an extant condemnation order referred to the condemned interest as an easement. After plaintiff's purchase, defendant moved to correct a scrivener's error nunc pro tunc, to show the condemned interest was, in fact, a fee interest. Plaintiff opposed the motion, claiming it was a bona fide purchaser, and that granting the motion would necessitate this separate quiet title action.

Defendant argued that the bona fide purchaser issue was "completely irrelevant" to the motion, but also argued plaintiff was not a bona fide purchaser, because plaintiff had notice that a fee interest was being condemned. The nunc pro tunc motion was granted. However, the nunc pro tunc order, prepared by defendant's counsel and signed by the trial court, did not even reference, much less resolve, the bona fide purchaser issue.*fn1 As predicted, this action to quiet title followed.

II

The Complaint

The complaint alleges plaintiff owns property in West Sacramento by deed from Mike Fuller Motorsports, Inc. (Fuller) recorded on March 27, 2008. In 2004, defendant filed a condemnation action against the property. (Sacto. Regional Co. Sanitation Dist. v. Nor-Cal Beverage Co., Inc., et al., Yolo Co. Super. Ct. No. ED04-0403.) A "final" order of condemnation against Fuller was recorded on January 4, 2008. Annexed documents described the condemned interest as an easement. In January 2008, during escrow, the title company reported the condemned interest was an easement and defendant's attorney confirmed this fact. An amended "final" order, still reflecting an easement, was recorded on February 22, 2008. Plaintiff then bought the property. Defendant later obtained a nunc pro tunc order changing "easement" to "fee title."*fn2

Based on these facts, the complaint sought to quiet title and obtain declaratory relief to confirm that defendant had an easement, not a fee interest, over plaintiff's property, on the ...


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