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James Ruffalo et al v. Lake of the Pines Association

September 30, 2011

JAMES RUFFALO ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
LAKE OF THE PINES ASSOCIATION, INC. ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



(Super. Ct. No. 72702)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robie ,j.

Ruffalo v. Lake of the Pines Assn.

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NOT TO BE PUBLISHED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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Plaintiffs James and Millie Ruffalo sued their homeowners' association and two of its managers for damage to their property caused by water intrusion from an adjacent golf course. The case settled in mediation, but later the Ruffalos opposed defendants' motion for summary judgment based on the written settlement agreement on the ground the agreement was confidential and therefore inadmissible. The trial court rejected the Ruffalos' claim of confidentiality and granted the motion.

On appeal from the resulting judgment, the Ruffalos contend the trial court erred in overruling their objection to admission of the settlement agreement. They also contend that even if the agreement was admissible, defendants failed to perform their obligations under the agreement, excusing the Ruffalos' performance, including dismissal of the action.

Finding no merit in the Ruffalos' arguments, we will affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The Ruffalos own real property located within Lake of the Pines, an incorporated membership community in Nevada County. Defendant Lake of the Pines Association, Inc. (the association) is the homeowners' association for the community, which owns and operates common and joint use areas within the community. Defendant Bob Boardman is the public works department manager for the association. Defendant Vicki Amadeio is the environmental control department manager for the association.

The Ruffalos commenced this action by filing a complaint against defendants alleging numerous causes of action arising out of damage the Ruffalos' property allegedly sustained as a result of water flowing from association property due to the faulty design, maintenance, and repair of the association's drainage and irrigation system.

In September 2008, the parties participated in mediation before a retired judge. The Ruffalos personally attended the mediation with their attorney. Neither of the individual defendants attended, but defense counsel appeared along with an insurance company claims representative.

The mediation resulted in a written "Mediation Agreement," pursuant to which "[t]he parties agree[d] to terminate th[e] litigation on the following terms:" (1) defendants would pay the Ruffalos $150,000 within 30 days; (2) the Ruffalos would dismiss their case "with prejudice and execute a release prepared by defense counsel"; (3) the parties would bear their own fees and costs; (4) the association would "work with the Ruffalos to make requested repairs to drainage and irrigation at [association] expense"; and (5) defense counsel would request that the association waive certain fees related to repairs on the Ruffalo property. The agreement further provided that it was "enforceable under CCP 664." The agreement was signed only by those present at the mediation.

In November 2008, after various disputes arose with respect to performance of the agreement, the Ruffalos filed a motion to strike the notice of settlement that had (apparently) been filed some time after the mediation and to restore the case to the active list. The trial court granted that motion. Thereafter, defendants obtained leave of court to file an amended answer asserting three additional ...


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