Real Estate Litigation

Practical Solutions to Your Litigation

Real estate’s significance for nearly every business and individual makes it a common subject of litigation.  Lurie, Zepeda, Schmalz, Hogan & Martin represents all parties involved in real estate matters – developers, landlords, tenants, brokers, financial institutions and individuals – in wide-ranging disputes.  Whether you are embroiled in high-stakes litigation or private arbitration, we strive to conduct a thorough investigation, then plan and implement a strategy to achieve your goals as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

Some of Our Real Estate Litigation Cases

  • Successfully defended sixteen elders and pastors of large local church with over a $100 million in real estate assets when denomination asserted that local church’s withdrawal from denomination was unauthorized. Twice defeated denomination’s motion for preliminary injunction. Twice defeated denomination’s motions for summary judgment. Secured total victory on grant of summary judgment in favor of local church. After filing motions for attorney’s fees under private attorney general fees statute, secured dismissal of appeal and recognition of judgment in favor of independent local church.

  • Successfully steered his client through nearly seven years of litigation in an effort to secure a partition by sale of downtown Los Angeles Wilshire Boulevard law office building over the opposition of now disbarred plaintiffs’ lawyer Tom Girardi.  At the first trial which played out over eleven days, Mr. Zepeda prevailed on all claims and secured an interlocutory judgment for sale of the building. On appeal, Mr. Zepeda defeated nearly all the claims of error but the Court of Appeal reversed and remanded the issue of whether the right to partition had been waived. On retrial, a different judge erroneously found such a waiver, but Mr. Zepeda secured a ruling of mistrial. Thereafter, Mr. Girardi and his law firm Girardi Keese were placed in involuntary bankruptcy and Mr. Zepeda thereafter secured a settlement involving the sale of the building and payment of nearly all his client’s fees.

  • Negotiated a favorable settlement in a case involving real property disputes related to the partition and ownership of three residential real properties located in Los Angeles, with total value of approximately $6,000,000.

  • Successfully defended a case for breach of fiduciary duty between tenants-in-common who owned residential property, by filing a cross-complaint for partition of that property and negotiating a favorable settlement solution, where Plaintiff agreed to client’s proposed voluntary sale of the property during one of the best seasons for home sales.

  • Within a few weeks after Ms. Tsylina filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of Defendant-Home Owners Association on the issue of CC&Rs’ interpretation, the homeowner agreed to dismiss his suit for a payment of a nominal sum representing less than 5% of his claimed damages.

  • Won permanent injunction against a city to stop it from tearing down client’s retaining wall.  Obtained writ of mandate to direct the city to approve the wall following a bench trial in Orange County Superior Court.

  • Successfully won a summary judgment in favor of client in a breach of contract claim against sellers of residential property, receiving a prevailing party attorney’s fee award exceeding $270,000.

  • Spearheaded the defense of a multi-million dollar fraud/breach of contract case arising from the sale of a well-known Westside office/entertainment complex.   Used summary adjudication motions to eliminate fraud causes of action, prompting a favorable settlement shortly before trial.

  • Won $2.4 million arbitration award for plaintiff in real estate joint venture dispute with developer.  Developer deprived client of profits in the venture by refusing to sell joint venture properties to ready, willing and able buyers.  

  • Won $400,000 arbitration award, confirmed as court judgment, for clients against a San Diego-based investment company in a dispute arising from the investment company’s acquisition of a residential care facility in a bankruptcy settlement.

  • Successfully obtained reversal of trial court’s judgment on issue of clients’ implied easement rights with respect to a parking lot adjoining clients’ apartment complex.   

  • Prevailing over one of the largest law firms in California, successfully defended property owner against claim for breach of contract relating to a failed agreement to sell 40 acres of land.  After a three month jury trial, the jury rendered verdict in client’s favor on ground that the sales contract was procured through fraud in the inducement.  

  • Successfully defended a real estate developer in a $16 million lawsuit alleging he had publicized a city’s intentions to take plaintiff’s property through eminent domain, thereby reducing the property’s value and interfering with the plaintiff’s business operated on the property. 

  • Successfully settled a lease dispute regarding a winery on behalf of lessee.  Client had leased a winery for five years, without the advice of legal counsel.  After the lease was terminated, the landlord contended that the former tenant had not replenished the wine inventory and had not left the wineries in their original condition.  Our client cross-complained, alleging the landlord had failed to return property and compensate them for the value of tenant improvements.  

  • Successfully represented three clients in breach of agreement claims against a cemetery corporation regarding an agreement entered in 1924.  After one-month bench trial, during which we thoroughly discredited defendant’s complex financial models as inaccurate and inconsistent, court issued judgment in favor of clients for the full amount of requested damages.  

  • After convincing the court to conduct a one-day bench trial on the defense of “sham guaranty,” obtained a ruling by the court that the client was not liable to pay on a guaranty of a $24 million loan on a commercial property in Beverly Hills’ “Golden Triangle” because the guaranty was subject to California’s anti-deficiency statutes.  

  • Successfully represented nationally-chartered bank with respect to fraudulent loan applications submitted by California-borrowers in connection with purchases of investment properties in Florida.  We overcame California’s complex anti-deficiency laws through a strategy whereby deficiency judgments were obtained in Florida and domesticated and enforced in California.  Numerous borrowers filed for bankruptcy protection.  We successfully settled those actions on favorable terms after filing complaints to have the debts deemed non-dischargeable.

  • Successfully tried and obtained an interlocutory judgment in favor of clients on a partition of commercial real estate involving 110 tenants in common in Westside Los Angeles property, of which clients owned an 11.25% undivided tenant in common interest. Obtained the appointment of a receiver to sell the property. In a second trial for accounting and attorneys’ fees issues, the Court awarded clients 100% of back rent from January 1, 2007 to December 2014, an amount exceeding $230,000, and 100% of attorneys’ fees requested. Defendants were held responsible for payment of 88.75% of attorneys’ fees, over $290,000.

  • Defended claims against client for allegedly fraudulently inducing plaintiff to enter into and/or breach an option agreement to sell residential real estate allegedly valued in excess of $5,000,000.  Successfully obtained summary judgment in favor of client, as well as an order awarding attorneys’ fees to client.   

  • Representing national retalier, favorably settled city’s claim of code violations early in case.

  • Defeated an action by a real estate developer to execute upon a $5 million injunction bond issued by national retailer client.  Developer had failed to complete a real estate development, for which client was to be anchor tenant, before the financial crisis of September 2008.  Obtained over $300,000 in cost reimbursements from developer.

  • Successfully defended commercial landlord against tenant for fraud related to the leased building’s condition and for rescission of triple-net lease agreement. Achieved dismissal of all of tenant’s fraud and breach claims through four consecutive motions for summary adjudication, and prosecuted cross-complaint against tenant for breach of lease. While the building contained construction and/or design defects, convinced court that fraud claims were untenable because the lease agreement was on “as is” basis and the tenant was an engineering firm. Immediately before jury trial, settled client’s claim against tenant for damages relating to breach of lease on terms favorable to client. Secured tenant’s eviction, allowing client to timely contribute property to new shopping center venture.

  • Fifty years after a legal description recording error of a lot split in the 1960s, filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court to conform the legal description of client’s residential property with the authorized lot line.  Case was resolved in clients’ favor, eliminating the risk of clients losing a large part of their driveway and garage.

  • In construction litigation, successfully defended land developer against claims that homes built on adjacent property suffered soil subsidence and foundation failure due in part to grading activity on client’s down slope property.  Obtained summary judgment based on statute of limitations.  The contractor who had built the affected homes was out of business and its records difficult to recover, complicating the ability to determine precisely who was responsible for soil subsidence.

  • Successfully sued celebrity and former studio president for encroaching on client’s property by building a gate and gatehouse.  Case was settled through an advantageous sale and lot line adjustment.

  • Successfully defended shopping center developer against former secured lender’s claim for $1.5 million “exit” fee after client refinanced loan. Lender had failed to demand the exit fee at the time the loan was refinanced and deed of trust re-conveyed. Notwithstanding lender’s claim of inadvertent error, persuaded court that “one-action” rule governed and that lender had waived its security interest and therefore waived its claim for further monies. Defeated lender’s claims on quickly set motion for summary judgment based on anti-deficiency law defenses. Collected entire award of fees, including a $50,000 “bonus” over actual attorneys’ fees incurred based on “reasonable fee” argument.

  • Successfully petitioned the Los Angeles Superior Court to vacate arbitration award dismissing contractor’s claims for purported lack of contractor’s license.  Thereafter, prosecuted claim to successful settlement.

  • After an adjoining property owner moved fences on client’s residential property in Santa Monica Canyon, where “every inch counts,” successfully prosecuted and tried a claim for encroachment.

  • Successfully defended apartment developers from judicial foreclosure action and prosecuted lender liability cross-complaints in two companion cases.  Obtained dismissal of judicial foreclosure claims by demurrer and won attorney’s fees.  Defeated bank’s effort to compel judicial reference of cross-complaints in both cases based upon interpretation of ADR agreement and bank’s waiver. Obtained peremptory writ from Court of Appeal reversing order compelling arbitration, securing jury trial of lender liability claims, allowing both cases to be settled at beginning of trial.

  • Litigated a real estate foreclosure and lender liability case for borrower against a money center bank affiliate.  The lender had attempted to foreclose on a large estate home building development in Malibu Canyon, even though assignor bank had promised a loan extension and conditions had been met.  Defeated lender’s application for appointment of receiver and obtained a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction before case was settled for client.