Judge: Michael Shultz, Case: 22CMCV00043, Date: 2022-08-09 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 22CMCV00043    Hearing Date: August 9, 2022    Dept: A

22CMCV00043 Woolfolk, et al. v. Bank of America, et al.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022 at 8:30 a.m.

 [TENTATIVE] ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS’ APPLICATION FOR COURT JUDGMENT

  The complaint filed on February 22, 2022, seeks an order to quiet title to real property owned by Plaintiffs located at 820 North Kalsman Avenue in Compton. Defendants allegedly recorded unlawful deeds of trust and assignments of deeds of trust against Plaintiff’s real property, which documents Plaintiffs seek to cancel. Defendants were unauthorized to record the deeds of trust as they were not lawful beneficiaries with the power of sale. The complaint alleges claims for quiet title, financial elder abuse, cancellation of instruments, and slander of title. Plaintiffs seek a default judgment against Defendant, Strength, Inc., only.

Where judgment by default is sought in a quiet title action, the court “shall in all cases require evidence of plaintiff’s title and hear such evidence” with respect to defendant’s claims, other than claims admitted by the plaintiff in the complaint. Code Civ. Proc., § 764.010. A quiet title action determines the adverse claims to the title of the Plaintiff against which determination is sought. Orcilla v. Big Sur, Inc. (2016) 244 Cal.App.4th 982, 1009–1010.

A request for entry of default judgment must include a dismissal of all parties against whom judgment is not sought or an application for separate judgment against specified parties under Code of Civil Procedure section 579, supported by a showing of grounds for each judgment. Calif Rules of Court 3.1800. The court’s file reflects that Plaintiffs sued three Defendants in this action other than Strength, Inc. Together, Defendants, Countrywide Home Loans (“Countrywide”), Inc.; Bank of America; and ReconTrust Los Angeles filed an answer on April 18, 2022.

Plaintiffs sue all Defendants jointly, alleging that Defendants aided and abetted the other Defendants in breaching their obligations to Plaintiffs. Complaint, ¶ 17. The answering Defendants have asserted affirmative defenses that include laches, statute of limitations, and res judicata. Plaintiff’s complaint includes a judgment entered on March 16, 2012, in Case No. TC021802, Charles Woolfolk v. Netco Title Company and Countrywide (the “First Action”), which was also a quiet title action involving the same real property at issue in this case. Complaint, Ex. 1.

Judgment was entered against Charles Woolfolk in the First Action on the claim for quiet title among other causes of action. In the same action, Countrywide filed a cross-complaint against Charles and Lena Woolfolk and Strength, Inc., among other Defendants.  Default judgment cannot be taken “where several defendants are sued on a joint liability, and one of them answers asserting defenses which would exonerate the defaulting defendant from such liability. [Mirabile v. Smith (1953) 119 CA2d 685, 689, 260 P2d 179, 181] Limitations on Default Judgments, Cal. Prac. Guide Civ. Pro. Before Trial Ch. 5-E, ¶ 5:266. If the answering Defendants here prevail on their affirmative defenses of res judicata, statute of limitations, and laches, defaulting Defendant, Strength, Inc., would benefit from the same defense. It was also a party in the First Action which raises res judicata implications.   

            Plaintiff’s request for court judgment against a single defendant in this case would also violate the “one-judgment rule” derived from Code of Civil Procedure section 904.1, subdivision (a), which governs appealable judgments and orders. The intent of the statute is “to codify the final judgment rule, or rule of one final judgment … . The theory is that piecemeal disposition and multiple appeals in a single action would be oppressive and costly, and that a review of intermediate rulings should await the final disposition of the case." In re Sheila B. (1993) 19 Cal. App. 4th 187, 197.        

            Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff’s Application for a Court Judgment is DENIED.