California Court of Appeals, Second District, Second Division
FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]
from a judgment and order of the Superior Court of Los
Angeles County No. BC521721. Richard L. Fruin, Jr., Judge.
Mesisca Riley & Kreitenberg, Dennis P. Riley and Rena E.
Kreitenberg for Plaintiffs and Appellants.
Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, Roy G. Weatherup, Bartley L.
Becker and Caroline E. Chan for Defendants and Respondents
Barbara Darwish, David Darwish, Gingko Rose Ltd. and Logerm
Law Offices of Rosenthal & Associates, Lisa F. Rosenthal
for Defendant and Respondent Lisa F. Rosenthal.
plaintiff brings a lawsuit against a defendant, and the trial
court denies a motion by the defendant for summary judgment
or for nonsuit made after the plaintiff's case-in-chief,
or the trier of fact returns a verdict for the plaintiff,
that ruling or verdict-if decided on the merits and not
procured by fraud-establishes as a matter of law that the
plaintiff had probable cause to bring its lawsuit and
precludes a subsequent claim against the plaintiff for
maliciously prosecuting that lawsuit, even if the trier of
fact later rules for the defendant or the verdict is later
overturned. (Wilson v. Parker, Covert &
Chidester (2002) 28 Cal.4th 811, 823-824
(Wilson).) Does this rule apply-and is a subsequent
malicious prosecution claim barred-when the trial court in
the prior lawsuit denied the defendant's motion for
judgment under Code of Civil Procedure section
631.8 but went on to rule in the
defendant's favor? We conclude that it does. Accordingly,
we affirm the trial court's judgment dismissing this
malicious prosecution action.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
2010, defendant Gingko Rose Ltd. (Gingko Rose) acquired a
house occupied by six tenants, including plaintiffs Wayne
Hart (Hart) and Carlos Rodriguez (Rodriguez). Defendants
David and Barbara Darwish own part of Gingko Rose, and
defendant Logerm LLC is Gingko Rose's general partner.
Defendants Lisa Rosenthal and her law firm, Rosenthal &
Associates, represented Gingko Rose.
2012, Gingko Rose filed six unlawful detainer lawsuits, one
against each tenant, for not paying rent. The cases against
Hart and Rodriguez proceeded to a bench trial first, with the
remaining cases trailing behind. After Gingko Rose rested its
case-in-chief, Hart and Rodriguez moved for a “directed
verdict” on several grounds, including that (1) the
house was not properly registered with the rent-control
authorities, (2) Gingko Rose was trying to collect rent for
periods when the house was not registered, (3) the notices
preceding the lawsuits did not spell out the alleged breaches
of the rental agreement, and (4) the dilapidated condition of
the house vitiated any duty to pay rent. The unlawful
detainer court pointed out that the proper procedural vehicle
was a motion for judgment under section 631.8. It then denied
that motion in two stages: It immediately denied the motion
on the third ground and took the remainder of the motion
under submission; after Hart and Rodriguez put on their case,
the court denied the remainder. After receiving written
closing arguments, the unlawful detainer court issued a
statement of decision ruling for Hart and Rodriguez. Four
months later, Gingko Rose dismissed the unlawful detainer
lawsuits still pending against the other four tenants.
tenants sued Gingko Rose, the Darwishes, Logerm LLC,
Rosenthal and her law firm (collectively, defendants) for
malicious prosecution of the unlawful detainer lawsuit. They
sought compensatory damages, emotional distress damages, and
moved for judgment on the pleadings on the ground that the
unlawful detainer court's denial of the motion for
judgment in Hart and Rodriguez's trial mandated a finding
that defendants had probable cause to bring the unlawful
detainer lawsuit, thereby dictating dismissal of the
malicious prosecution action.
trial court granted the motion as to Hart and Rodriguez. The
court found that the unlawful detainer court had
“weighed the evidence and denied the [section 631.8]
motion, ” which in its view dictated a finding that
“the evidence for [defendants' unlawful detainer]
claim must at least be tenable under the lenient...
standard” for evaluating probable cause to bring and
maintain a lawsuit. The court rejected the tenants'
argument that the unlawful detainer court's ruling was a
product of defendants' fraud, finding no “evidence
to back up [that] argument.” The court accordingly
granted defendants judgment on the pleadings as to Hart and