Judge: Joel L. Lofton, Case: 22AHCV00130, Date: 2023-03-22 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 22AHCV00130    Hearing Date: March 22, 2023    Dept: X

   Tentative Ruling


Judge Joel L. Lofton, Department X



HEARING DATE:     March 22, 2023                                   TRIAL DATE: October 31, 2023


CASE:                         GUSTAVO V. GARCIA, v. GUSTAVO GARCIA, JR. and DOES 1-20, inclusive.  


CASE NO.:                 22AHCV00130






MOVING PARTY:               Defendant Gustavo Garcia Jr.


RESPONDING PARTY:      Plaintiff Gustavo V. Garcia


SERVICE:                              Filed January 11, 2023


OPPOSITION:                       Filed March 9, 2023


REPLY:                                   Filed March 2, 2023




            Defendant move for judgment on the pleadings as to each cause of action alleged in Plaintiff’s first amended complaint.




             This case arises out of Plaintiff Gustavo V. Garcia’s (“Plaintiff”) claim that he is the sole owner of property located at 8239 Bleeker Ave., Rosemead, California (“Subject Property”). Plaintiff alleges his son, Defendant Gustavo Garcia Jr. (“Defendant”), is incorrectly claiming an interest in the Subject Property. Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint on September 7, 2022, alleging four causes of action for (1) quiet title, (2) breach of oral contract, (3) accounting, and (4) fraud.




            Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED in its entirety with leave to amend.




A defendant may move for judgment on the pleadings when the “complaint does not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action against that defendant.”¿ (Code Civ Proc sections 438(b)(1) and (c)(1)(B)(ii).)¿ The grounds for motion provided for in this section shall appear on the face of the challenged pleading or from any matter of which the court is required to take judicial notice.¿ (Code Civ. Proc. section 438(d).)¿ Presentation of extrinsic evidence is therefore not proper on a motion for judgment on the pleadings.¿ (Cloud v. Northrop Grumman   Corp.¿(1998) 67 Cal.App.4th¿ 995,¿999.)¿¿¿ The standard for ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings is essentially the same as that applicable to a general demurrer, that is, under the state of the pleadings, together with matters that may be judicially noticed, it appears that a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. (Bezirdjian v. O'Reilly (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 316, 321-322 (citing Schabarum v. California Legislature (1998) 60 Cal.App.4th 1205, 1216).)




            Plaintiff’s claims rely on the same set of foundational allegations. Plaintiff alleges that on or about March of 1999, Plaintiff asked Defendant to help him purchase the Subject Property because Plaintiff’s credit did not qualify him to finance the Subject Property. (FAC ¶ 8.) Plaintiff alleges that the parties agreed to the arrangement with the knowledge that Plaintiff would be the sole owner, pay the down payment, and make all related expenses for the purchase of the Subject Property. (Ibid.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant was merely the mortgage holder and would transfer the title to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff alleges that on April 9, 1999, escrow closed, and he moved into the Subject Property. (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff alleges that on June 11, 2006, Defendant refinanced the subject property. (Id. ¶ 16.)


            Plaintiff alleges that in April of 2016, Plaintiff’s ex-wife told Plaintiff to pay $1,000 in rent or to move out. (FAC ¶ 13.) Plaintiff alleges that on or about May 2017, Defendant filed an unlawful detainer action against Plaintiff which was ultimately dismissed. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant and his mother, Plaintiff’s ex-wife, are renting the Subject Property and collecting $2,400 per month. (Id. ¶ 17.)


            First Cause of Action for Quiet Title


            Defendant contends that Plaintiff’s claim for quiet title is barred by the statute of limitations.


            The Legislature has not established a specific statute of limitations for actions to quiet title. [Citation.] Therefore, courts refer to the underlying theory of relief to determine the applicable period of limitations.” (Salazar v. Thomas (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 467, 476 (“Salazar”).) “First, ‘ “as a general rule, the statute of limitations [for a quiet title action] does not run against one in possession of land.” ’ ” (Id. at p. 477.) “Generally, the most likely time limits for a quiet title action are the five-year limitations period for adverse possession, the four-year limitations period for the cancellation of an instrument, or the three-year limitations period for claims based on fraud and mistake.” (Id. at pp. 476-77, fns. omitted.)


            Plaintiff’s FAC alleges that he is the rightful title holder to the property based on an oral contract. In opposition, Plaintiff argues that none of the statutes of limitations apply because he was and continues to be in possession of the property.


            “[P]ossession does not provide a plaintiff with an unlimited tolling period without qualification. Rather, the statute of limitations commences on a quiet title claim when the plaintiff is no longer in ‘undisturbed possession’ of the land. [Citation.]  To determine whether a disturbance has arisen, courts consider the following questions: ‘(1) when were plaintiffs no longer owners “in exclusive and undisputed possession” of the land [citation]; (2) when was defendants’ adverse “claim ... pressed against” plaintiffs [citation]; or (3) when was defendants’ hostile claim “asserted in some manner to jeopardize the superior title’ held by plaintiffs [citation].’ ” (Kumar v. Ramsey (2021) 71 Cal.App.5th 1110, 1122-23.)


            Plaintiff’s own allegations do not support his contention that he has maintained undisturbed possession of the Subject Property. Plaintiff alleges that in 2016 his ex-wife demanded he pays rent or moves out. (FAC ¶ 13.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant initiated an unlawful detainer action against Plaintiff in May of 2017. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff filed his initial complaint on March 10, 2022. By his own allegations, Plaintiff’s possession was disputed by a court action over four years prior to the commencement of this action. Under either the four-year statute of limitations for the cancellation of an instrument or the three-year limitations for fraud (see Salazar, supra, 236 at pp. 476-77), Plaintiff’s claim for quiet title is untimely.


            Second Cause of Action for Breach of Contract


            Defendant also argues that Plaintiff’s claim for breach of oral contract is untimely.


             The essential elements of a breach of contract are: (1) the contract, (2) plaintiff’s performance or excuse for nonperformance, (3) the defendant’s breach, and (4) the resulting damages to the plaintiff. (Green Valley Landowners Assn. v. City of Vallejo (2015) 241 Cal.App.4th. 425, 433.) Code of Civil Procedure section 339 requires that an action for an oral contract must be brought within two years.


            In opposition, Plaintiff argues that his claim for breach of oral contract is timely because Defendant is in continual breach because he is not sharing the rental income with Plaintiff. In his FAC, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant breached the oral contract by trying to evict Plaintiff by filing the unlawful detainer claim, by renting the property, refusing to give the property to Plaintiff, and refinancing the property and keeping half the proceeds.


            Traditionally, a claim accrues ‘ “ ‘when [it] is complete with all of its elements’–those elements being wrongdoing [or breach], harm, and causation.” ’ ” (Gilkyson v. Disney Enterprises, Inc. (2016) 244 Cal.App.4th 1336, 1341.) “Under the continuous accrual doctrine each breach of a recurring obligation is independently actionable.” (Ibid.) “The effect of the doctrine is that ‘a suit for relief may be partially time-barred as to older events but timely as to those [acts of wrongdoing occurring] within the applicable limitations period.’ ” (Ibid.)


            Plaintiff’s claims are all time-barred except for his claim that Defendant improperly rented the Subject Property and continues to collect rent.


            However, Plaintiff’s claim still fails as a matter of law based on the Statute of Frauds. Civil Code section 1624, subdivision (a)(1) provides that “[a]n agreement that by its terms is not to be performed within a year from the making thereof” is invalid unless in writing. Here, Plaintiff’s claim that the oral agreement postulated that he would continue to make the payments on the property cannot be performed within a year and is thus invalid pursuant to the Statute of Frauds.


            Fourth Cause of Action for Fraud


            Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s fourth cause of action for fraud fails to state a claim and is untimely. Plaintiff’s fourth cause of action alleges that Defendant made false representations that he will buy the subject property for the benefit of Plaintiff. (FAC ¶ 28.)


“The elements of fraud, which give rise to the tort action for deceit, are (a) misrepresentation (false representation, concealment, or nondisclosure); (b) knowledge of falsity (or ‘scienter’); (c) intent to defraud, i.e., to induce reliance; (d) justifiable reliance; and (e) resulting damage.” (Beckwith v. Dahl (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 1039, 1060, citations omitted.


“Fraud is required to be pleaded with specificity.” (People ex rel. Harris v. Rizzo (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 921, 947.) “Fraud allegations must be pled with more detail than other causes of action. The facts constituting the fraud, including every element of the cause of action, must be alleged factually and specifically. The objectives are to give the defendant notice of definite charges which can be intelligently met, and to permit the court to determine whether, on the facts pleaded, there is any foundation, prima facie at least, for the charge of fraud.” (Apollo Capital Fund, LLC v. Roth Capital Partners, LLC (2007) 158 Cal.App.4th 226, 240, internal quotation marks omitted.)


“ ‘It is hornbook law that an actionable misrepresentation must be made about past or existing facts;  statements regarding future events are merely deemed opinions.’ ” (Neu-Visions Sports, Inc. v. Soren/McAdams/Bartells (2000) 86 Cal.App.4th 303, 309-310.) “An action for relief on the grounds of fraud or mistake must be commenced within three years.” (Kline v. Turner (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 1369, 1373.)


Plaintiff’s fraud claim fails for a variety of reasons. First, Plaintiff fails to plead his claim with any specificity. Second, Plaintiff’s sole basis for his fraud claim is his claim that Defendant represented that sometime in the future, Defendant would transfer the property to his father, which is a statement regarding future events. Lastly, Plaintiff’s claim is untimely. Even if Plaintiff’s allegations were viewed to be sufficient to allege a fraud claim, Plaintiff was notified of Defendant’s alleged wrongdoing when Defendant brought the unlawful detainer case in 2017. Plaintiff’s fourth cause of action for fraud fails as a matter of law.


            Third Cause of Action for Accounting


Plaintiff’s third cause of action for an accounting is dependent on his other claims. Because the court has found that Plaintiff’s other causes of action fail, so too does Plaintiff’s third cause of action.




            Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED in its entirety with 20 days leave to amend.



            Moving Party to give notice.



Dated:   March 22, 2023                                             ___________________________________

                                                                                    Joel L. Lofton

                                                                                    Judge of the Superior Court