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Ashurst Land & Cattle, LLC v. Rancho Mountain Properties, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 10, 2013

ASHURST LAND & CATTLE, LLC; et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
RANCHO MOUNTAIN PROPERTIES, INC.; et al., Defendants.

ORDER: (1) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (2) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO EXPUNGE LIS PENDENS [Docket Nos. 53, 54]

ROGER T. BENITEZ, District Judge.

Presently before the Court are: (1) Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 54); and (2) Defendants' Motion to Expunge Lis Pendens (Docket No. 53). For the reasons stated below, both Motions are GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

I. UNDERLYING BANKRUPTCY ACTION

On December 16, 2008, Pfau, Pfau & Pfau, LLC ("Pfau"), whose manager was then Plaintiff Ray Gray, [1] filed a voluntary petition in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of California. At that time, Pfau owned real properties commonly known as "Ashurst Ranch" and "University Heights" ("Properties"). These Properties secured a debt owed by Pfau to Defendant Rancho Mountain Properties, Inc. ("Rancho")'s predecessor-in-interest, Defendant ING USA Annuity and Life Insurance Company ("ING USA"), in the original principal amount of $19, 500, 000. (RJN [Docket No. 54], Exh. A, at 2.)[2]

On May 29, 2009, ING USA filed a motion for relief from the automatic stay, after Pfau failed to find a viable cash purchaser of the Properties. After a five-month protracted negotiation, Pfau, ING USA, and CMR (a junior lien holder, and later the main equity holder of Pfau) stipulated to lift the automatic stay. On October 22, 2009, the Bankruptcy Court entered an order lifting the automatic stay pursuant to the terms of the stipulation ("Relief Stay Order"). ( Id., Exh. B.) The Relief Stay Order expressly forbid Pfau from "seek[ing] an injunction" to delay foreclosure. ( Id. at 14.)

II. RAY GRAY CONTESTS THE FORECLOSURE OF THE PROPERTIES

For the past four years, Ray Gray has engaged in litigation against Defendants, contesting the foreclosure of the Properties. For instance, Ray Gray obtained ex parte temporary restraining orders in both the San Diego County and Fresno County Superior Courts to enjoin the foreclosure sales on the Properties, in violation of the Relief Stay Order. ( Id., Exh. A, at 2.) Ray Gray perjured himself to both courts by filing a series of verified complaints under oath on "Pfau's behalf" after he had been removed as Pfau's manager. ( Id. ) Ray Gray also recorded multiple lis pendens on the Properties in connection with the suits, and refused to withdraw them, even after the cases were dismissed. ( Id., Exh. D.) The temporary restraining orders were eventually dissolved and the lis pendens removed from title. Rancho foreclosed on University Heights on November 2, 2010, and on Ashurst Ranch on January 3, 2011. (RJN [Docket No. 53], Exh. B.)

On January 20, 2011, after the foreclosures of the Properties took place, a chapter 11 trustee was appointed in the Pfau bankruptcy case, with Ray Gray's consent. (RJN [Docket No. 54], Exh. E.) A few weeks later, Ray Gray, despite no longer being a manager of Pfau, filed a third adversary case on "Pfau's behalf" against Rancho based on the alleged wrongful foreclosure. ( Id., Exh. F.) The Bankruptcy Court granted Rancho's motion to dismiss that action on April 13, 2011. ( Id., Exh. G.)

III. SETTLEMENT OF CLAIMS FOR WRONGFUL FORECLOSURE

On April 27, 2012, the Bankruptcy Court approved a Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release of All Claims on behalf of the estate of Pfau, with ING USA, Defendant ING Investment Management, LLC, Lion II Custom Investments, LLC, and Rancho. ( Id., Exh. I.) Pursuant to the settlement agreement, Pfau's bankruptcy trustee fully released:

any and all claims related... to the Properties, as well as any and all claims related to foreclosures of such Properties and the rights of the [Defendants] to ownership and peaceful possession of such Properties, and any and all claims related to the Loan Agreement dated as of August 28, 2006, entered into by and between Pfau and ING's assignor and all loan documents related thereto, including but not limited to a certain promissory note, and certain deeds of trust, as amended or modified, for which the Properties were collateral (collectively, the "Loan"), including but not limited to any claims for lender liability or equitable subordination and any actions taken by [Defendants] in connection with or enforcement of the Loan.

( Id. ยง 3.)

IV. THE PRESENT ...


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