California Court of Appeals, Third District, San Joaquin
APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Joaquin County, No. 39201100270436CUORSTK Roger Ross, Judge.
Robinson Bradford, Marc B. Robinson and Matthew C. Bradford for Defendants and Appellants.
Law Offices of Brunn & Flynn, Gerald E. Brunn and Mahanvir S. Sahota for Plaintiffs and Respondents.
Factually, this case involves a dispute between neighbors over the use of a road and certain alleged threats, harassment, and interference with property rights arising out of this dispute. Legally, it involves the following issue: Where a plaintiff who has filed a complaint containing causes of action that are based, in part, on protected conduct ― and therefore potentially subject to a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute) ― subsequently files an amended complaint removing the allegations of protected conduct as a basis for liability, does the filing of the amended complaint render moot a later-filed anti-SLAPP motion based on the original complaint? We conclude that it does.
JKC3H8, a Nevada Limited Partnership, and Jillian Knudsen (plaintiffs) sued James and Maureen Colton (defendants) seeking an injunction and damages arising out of a dispute over the use of an unpaved road in Ripon, California. Knudsen lived with her husband, John Kamps, and two daughters in a house located between State Highway 120 and Louise Avenue. The property was owned by JKC3H8 (the partnership), the general partner of which was Kamps. The Coltons also lived between Highway 120 and Louise Avenue, a short distance to the north of Knudsen and Kamps. The road at the center of this dispute, known as Huse Road, connects Highway 120 to Louise Avenue.
The Original Complaint
The original complaint, filed October 3, 2011, alleged: “Plaintiffs, their family, business and guest invitees use Huse Road for ingress and egress from Louise [Avenue] to their property. Plaintiffs, their family, and business invitees pass Defendants’ residence when they travel from Louise Avenue, south on Huse Road, to their residence.... [¶]... [¶]... Plaintiffs allege that each parcel along Huse Road from State Highway 120 to Louise Avenue extends approximately fifteen (15) feet to the middle of Huse Road. Defendants’ land is burdened by the right of way easement over the easterly fifteen feet of their property.” The complaint continued: “Since April 2009, Defendants have harassed, intimidated and annoyed [Knudsen], her family and guest invitees regarding the use of Huse Road. Defendants have engaged in a malicious and premeditated campaign to prevent and destroy [Knudsen’s]
quiet peace and enjoyment of her home. Among other things, Defendants have trespassed on [Knudsen’s] property, threatened to harm her daughters and animals, caused damage to crops from their excessive speeding on Huse Road, intentionally destroyed speed bumps on Huse Road, made false and defamatory statements regarding [Knudsen], and brandished a rifle at [Kamps].” (Italics added.)
With respect to speeding and destruction of speed bumps, the complaint alleged: “Defendants consistently drive down Huse Road at an excessive rate of speed. The dirt road was not constructed for speeds in excess of fifteen (15) miles per hour. Defendants’ speeding puts an undue burden on the road and causes crop damage by the dust and spider mites that infest Plaintiffs’ orchard and neighboring orchards. [¶]... [Knudsen] erected dirt speed bumps on [the partnership’s] fifteen feet of Huse Road in front of its property to slow the speed of vehicles passing [Knudsen’s] residence and orchard. In response, Defendants vandalized Plaintiffs’ property by using their motor vehicles to destroy the speed bumps.” With respect to trespassing and harassment, the complaint alleged: “On numerous occasions, [Maureen Colton] has trespassed onto Plaintiffs’ property to harass and intimidate Plaintiffs and their invitees. [¶]... On June 1, 2011, [James Colton] parked on Huse Road, in front of Plaintiffs’ property, to spy on and intimidate [Knudsen], her family and invitees. [¶]... In June 2011, [Maureen Colton] falsified a petition in support of a temporary restraining order and request for order to stop harassment against [Knudsen]. A temporary restraining order was granted by San Joaquin County Superior Court; however, a permanent restraining order was denied after hearing on June 28, 2011. [¶]... On June 19, 2011, [James Colton] brandished a rifle at [Kamps], as part of Defendants’ campaign of harassment against [Knudsen]. [¶]... Over the past year, Defendants have blocked the ingress and egress of Plaintiffs’ business and guest invitees from using Huse Road from Louise Avenue to access Plaintiffs’ property. [¶]... [James Colton] consistently attempts to instigate a physical altercation with his threats of physical harm to [Knudsen], her children, animals and property.” (Italics added.) The complaint further alleged: “As evidenced by [Maureen Colton’s] petition for civil harassment restraining order, the nature of Defendants’ harassment has become more alarming and their harassment and apparent obsession have become intolerable.” (Italics added.)
The complaint’s first cause of action sought an injunction to prevent “further acts of harassment directed towards [Knudsen], her family and invitees to her residence, including without limitation, making verbal threats and insults directed toward [Knudsen], verbally assaulting [Knudsen], and trespassing on [Knudsen’s] property.” This cause of action also sought damages for “the loss of the quiet use and enjoyment of [Knudsen’s] property, orchards and residence, ” and for “emotional distress as a result of
Defendants’ wrongful conduct.” The second and third causes of action sought damages for private nuisance and civil harassment, respectively. These causes of action also sought an injunction preventing “[d]efendants from interfering with and encroaching on [Knudsen’s] use and enjoyment of the Easement.” The fourth cause of action sought damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The fifth cause of action sought to quiet title to the easement in the partnership’s favor. Finally, the sixth cause of action sought declaratory relief, specifically judicial declarations that “[p]laintiffs have an easement to [use] Huse Road from Louise Avenue to State Highway 120, ” that “[d]efendants’ driving in excess of fifteen (15) miles per hour ...