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Thompson v. Ioane

California Court of Appeals, Sixth District

May 25, 2017

RICHARD L. THOMPSON, Plaintiff, Cross-defendant and Respondent,
v.
BRIANA C. IOANE, Defendant, Cross-complainant and Appellant. RICHARD L. THOMPSON, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
MICHAEL S. IOANE, Sr., et al., Defendants and Appellants. RICHARD L. THOMPSON, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
MICHAEL S. IOANE, Sr., et al., Defendants and Appellants.

         Superior Court Santa Clara County CV-179290 Honorable Paul M. Marigonda Trial Judge.

          Counsel for Plaintiff, Cross-defendant and Respondent: RICHARD L. THOMPSON Law Office of James W. Duffy James William Duffy Trombadore Gonden Law Group David M. Gonden James J. Corbelli

          Counsel for Defendant, Cross-complainant and Appellant: BRIANA C. IOANE In propria persona

          Counsel for Plaintiff and Respondent: RICHARD L. THOMPSON Law Office of James W. Duffy James William Duffy Trombadore Gonden Law Group David M. Gonden James J. Corbelli

          Counsel for Plaintiffs, Defendants and Appellants: MICHAEL S. IOANE, Sr., et al. In propria persona

          Counsel for Plaintiff and Respondent: RICHARD L. THOMPSON Law Office of James W. Duffy James William Duffy Trombadore Gonden Law Group David M. Gonden James J. Corbelli

          Counsel for Defendants and Appellants: MICHAEL S. IOANE, Sr., et al. In propria persona

          ELIA, J.

         In this opinion, we resolve three related appeals arising out of an action to quiet title to real property located on Blue Gum Avenue in Capitola (the Blue Gum property). James J. Thompson (Thompson)[1] brought this action against, among others, Michael S. Ioane, Sr., Shelly J. Ioane, and their adult children Briana C. Ioane, Ashley M. Ioane, and Michael S. Ioane, Jr. (collectively, the Ioanes).[2] Briana filed a cross-complaint against Thompson, asserting a number of claims, including one for quiet title to the Blue Gum property.

         The trial court sustained Thompson's demurrer to Briana's cross-complaint and, later, granted summary judgment in Thompson's favor and against the Ioanes on causes of action for quiet title and declaratory relief. On Thompson's motion, the trial court found Michael and Shelly to be vexatious litigants and imposed a pre-filing order against them.

         Michael, Shelly, and Briana (collectively, appellants) appealed and are proceeding in propria persona. In appeal Thompson v. Ioane (H042104), Briana appeals the order sustaining Thompson's demurrer to her cross-complaint. All three appellants appeal the grant of summary judgment in appeal Thompson v. Ioane et al. (H043112). Michael and Shelly appeal the pre-filing order in appeal Thompson v. Ioane et al. (H043350).

         We reverse and remand with directions.

         I. Background[3]

         A. Factual Background[4]

         The Blue Gum property was sold at a foreclosure sale in August 1998.[5] Thereafter, Bank United filed an unlawful detainer action against Michael in Santa Cruz Superior Court case No. MS981411. In June 1999, the court entered judgment ordering that Bank United take possession of the Blue Gum property from Michael and that a writ of possession be issued.[6]

         Shelly filed for bankruptcy. She and Michael filed an adversary proceeding against Bank United and others in her bankruptcy case. In their first amended complaint, they alleged that they were the owners of the Blue Gum property, that the foreclosure sale was invalid, and that the writ of possession issued in the state unlawful detainer action was invalid. They sought possession of the Blue Gum property, among other relief. On July 10, 2000, the bankruptcy court granted summary judgment in favor of Bank United.

         In approximately the same timeframe, Michael and Shelly filed a separate civil suit against Bank United and others in federal district court (case No. 99-21119 SW). They alleged they had “a paramount interest” in the Blue Gum property, that Bank United lacked any claim to the Blue Gum property, and that the writ of possession issued in the state unlawful detainer action was invalid. As in the adversary proceeding, they sought possession of the Blue Gum property. In an order filed on August 25, 2000, the federal court dismissed the action with prejudice, “easily conclud[ing] that the present litigation is just one more in a string of frivolous lawsuits filed by the Plaintiffs....” The court dismissed the majority of the causes of action pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine[7], reasoning that those claims effectively sought federal court review of the state court's ruling in the unlawful detainer action. On September 26, 2000, the court imposed the sanction of pre-filing review on Michael and Shelly.

         The Blue Gum property was deeded to Thompson and his wife in 2001.

         The Ioanes filed a quiet title action against, among others, the Thompsons in Santa Cruz Superior Court case No. CV138163. On July 24, 2002, the superior court granted a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by Thompson and his wife. The court later entered judgment in favor of the Thompsons. That judgment called for the Thompsons to recover their costs, but did not purport to quiet title in the Thompsons' favor. This court affirmed that judgment on December 19, 2003. (Olson v. Murray (Dec. 19, 2003, H024770) [nonpub. opn.] (Olson).)

         The Ioanes have recorded a number of documents regarding the Blue Gum property with the Santa Cruz County Recorder since the issuance of this court's opinion in Olson in 2003. For example, a grant deed was recorded on February 15, 2005 purporting to transfer title to the Blue Gum property from Michael to Lesieli Tavake on behalf of his then-minor children Ashley, Briana, and Michael, Jr.

         B. Procedural History

         Thompson filed a verified first amended complaint on June 13, 2014 against the Ioanes and others.[8] He sought a judgment quieting title in his favor, cancellation of various written instruments, and declaratory relief.

         On January 15, 2015, the court sustained a demurrer filed by Shelly, Michael, and Michael, Jr. to the cancellation of instruments cause of action with leave to amend, which Thompson did not. Instead, he dismissed the cancellation of instruments cause of action against Ashley and Briana.

         Briana filed a cross-complaint asserting claims for quiet title, conversion, malicious prosecution, cancellation of written instrument, and declaratory relief on November 5, 2014. She sought cancellation of nine instruments, including the 2001 grant deed to the Thompsons. Thompson demurred, arguing that the quiet title, conversion, cancellation of written instrument, and declaratory relief claims were barred by res judicata (claim preclusion). He further argued that the conversion, malicious prosecution, and declaratory relief claims failed to state sufficient facts to state a cause of action.

         On February 26, 2015, the court sustained Thompson's demurrer to each of Briana's causes of action without leave to amend. It ruled that the quiet title claim was barred by claim preclusion, the conversion claim failed to state sufficient facts to state a cause of action and was barred by claim preclusion, the malicious prosecution claim failed to state sufficient facts to state a cause of action, the cancellation of written instrument claim was barred by claim preclusion, and the declaratory relief claim failed to state sufficient facts to state a cause of action and was barred by claim preclusion. Brianna filed a notice of appeal on March 17, 2015.

         On March 18, 2015 Thompson filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that claim preclusion or issue preclusion barred appellants' defenses. The trial court granted that motion in an order filed on October 21, 2015. Michael, Shelly, and Briana filed notices of appeal on December 21, 2015.

         In January 2016, pursuant to a motion made by Thompson, the trial court entered a vexatious litigant prefiling order against Michael and Shelly. They appealed from that order on March 14, 2016.

         The court entered judgment on March 25, 2016. It quieted title to the Blue Gum property in Thompson as of May 30, 2001. The judgment enjoined appellants “to make no further claim to said Blue Gum Property adverse to plaintiff, by legal action or otherwise, on the basis of any fact or facts that were proved, or which might have been proved, in the action.” The court also ordered cancellation of sixteen recorded documents. Finally, the court declared that Thompson “is the sole owner of the fee simple title of the Blue Gum ...


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