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Thee Aguila, Inc. v. Century Law Group, LLP

California Court of Appeals, Second District, First Division

July 2, 2019

THEE AGUILA, INC., Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
CENTURY LAW GROUP, LLP, et al., Defendants and Respondents.

          APPEAL from a judgment and order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC532354 Rafael A. Ongkeko, Judge. Affirmed.

          Law Office of Guinevere M. Malley and Guinevere M. Malley for Plaintiff and Appellant.

          Century Law Group and Karen A. Larson for Defendants and Appellants.

          CHANEY, ACTING P. J.

         Thee Aguila, Inc. appeals from a judgment entered in a lawsuit involving proceeds awarded to its tenants, Edgar Fragoso and Eva Meneses, as part of an eminent domain proceeding. The trial court determined that the parties' lease agreement did not support Thee Aguila's claims, and that Thee Aguila's asserted claims were collaterally estopped by the judgment in the eminent domain proceeding. We agree with the trial court and affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 1, 2008, Fragoso and his mother, Meneses, signed a 15-year lease for commercial property located at 2800 Firestone Boulevard in South Gate to open the El Parral Restaurant. Central to this dispute, the form lease provided:

         “13. CONDEMNATION

         “If the Premises or any portion thereof are taken by the power of eminent domain, or sold by Landlord under the threat of exercise of said power (all of which is herein referred to as ‘condemnation'), this Lease shall terminate as to the part so taken as of the date the condemning authority takes title or possession, whichever occurs first.... [¶]... [¶]

         “All awards for the taking of any part of the Premises or any payment made under the threat of the exercise of the power of eminent domain shall be the property of the Landlord, whether made as compensation for the diminution of the value of the leasehold or for the taking of the fee or as severance damages; provided, however, that Tenant shall be entitled to any award for loss or damage to Tenant's trade fixtures and removable personal property.”

         In 2009, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) filed a complaint in eminent domain seeking to have the property condemned. (L.A. Super. Ct. No. BC416163.) The trial court issued an order for prejudgment possession in favor of LAUSD in November 2009.

         LAUSD's eminent domain complaint named, among other interested defendants, El Parral, Edgar Fragoso individually and doing business as El Parral, and Meneses and Fragoso's El Parral landlord, Thee Aguila.

         In its answer to the eminent domain complaint, Thee Aguila claimed “by assignment, each and every award herein for the taking, including [El Parral's] loss of good will, but not including its[] trade fixtures.” Meneses, Fragoso, and El Parral each claimed in their answers they were entitled to “compensation for loss of business goodwill relating to the operation of [El Parral] on the leased property.”

         The trial court issued its judgment on the eminent domain complaint and final order condemning the property on March 9, 2011. In that order, the trial court awarded Thee Aguila a total of $6, 198, 100 for its interest in the property. Meneses, Fragoso, and El Parral were awarded a total of $6, 100, 000 for their interest in the property, including “any claims for leasehold value, ...


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