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Epps v. Lindsey

Superior Court of California, Appellate Division, San Bernardino

March 27, 2017

JOSHUA and CHRISTINA EPPS Plaintiffs and Respondents,
v.
BRUCE LINDSEY, Defendant and Appellant.

         Appeal from a grant of summary judgment, San Bernardino County Superior Court, UDFS 1509971, Fontana District, Lynn Poncin, Judge. Affirmed.

          Anderson & LeBlanc, A.P.L.C.; Jeff LeBlanc for defendant and appellant.

          Law Offices of Liddle & Liddle, APC; George Lee Liddle, Jr., Raymond Zakari, and Larsen E. Ensberg for plaintiffs and respondents.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         THE COURT:

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Appellant Bruce Lindsey (Lindsey) appeals from a grant of summary judgment in favor of respondents Joshua and Christina Epps (the Epps). Lindsey and the Epps are, respectively, the defendant and plaintiffs in the underlying unlawful detainer action which arose from the Epps' post-foreclosure acquisition of the at-issue property.

         The undisputed facts from below indicate Bank of America purchased the property during an April 2015 foreclosure sale. The property was security, under a deed of trust, for the repayment of a loan that was obtained by Lindsey's then-girlfriend, Linda Barbee (Barbee).[1] Following the foreclosure, Joshua Epps' parents purchased the property, on behalf of the Epps, at an online auction in August 2015. The property was then transferred the following month to the Epps, who lacked the liquidity to place an online bid themselves.[2] The Epps plan on using the property as their primary residence and, to that end, they have even listed their current residence for sale.[3]

         Despite being served with a 90 day notice to quit, Lindsey refused to vacate the premises and the underlying suit was commenced.[4] The Epps then moved for summary judgment. In opposing the motion, Lindsey outlined what he admitted was a “convoluted” factual history between him and Barbee. Namely, the couple agreed to acquire the property together, but Barbee refused to place Lindsey on title. Then, at the end of their tumultuous relationship and in the face of foreclosure proceedings, Barbee quit claimed her interest to Lindsey for $5, 000 and moved out. However, Lindsey contends the transfer was ineffective since Barbee never truly intended to transfer title and because she somehow continued to exercise control over the property. Barbee then apparently used her “leverage” to “extort” money from Lindsey in the form of ten year lease to the property for $2, 300 a month. [5]

         Based on the written agreement, Lindsey opposed the motion for summary judgment and argued he was entitled to stay at the property for the duration of the lease.[6] Despite expressing concerns regarding Lindsey's credibility and his shifting positions regarding ownership, the trial court determined that Lindsey's version of the facts was not dispositive since the Epps were successors in interest under Code of Civil Procedure section 1161b.[7] As such, even assuming that Lindsey had a valid lease with Barbee, the trial court concluded that the Epps had no obligation to honor the lease and Lindsey failed to vacate the premises after expiration of the 90 days.[8] Lindsey now appeals the limited issue of whether the trial court correctly applied the undisputed facts to section 1161b.[9]

         DISCUSSION

         The Standard of Review

         We review the propriety of a grant of summary judgment de novo. (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 860.) In effect, we assume the role of a trial court and apply the same rules and standards that govern a trial court's determination of a motion for summary judgment. (Riverside County Comm. Facilities Dist. No. 87-1 v. Bainbridge 17 (1999) 77 Cal.App.4th 644, 652.) Although we would normally engage in the same three-step analysis required of the trial court, the argument raised by Lindsey through his appeal is simple: whether the trial court erred in applying Code of Civil Procedure section 1161b to undisputed ...


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