Judge: Peter A. Hernandez, Case: 24PSCV00906, Date: 2024-06-11 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 24PSCV00906    Hearing Date: June 11, 2024    Dept: K

Defendant Guotao Huang’s Demurrer to Complaint is SUSTAINED, with leave to amend.

Background   

Plaintiff Shuangshuang Li (“Plaintiff”) alleges as follows:

In March 2022, Plaintiff posted on Chinese social media that she was seeking a contractor to remodel her Diamond Bar home (“property”). Guotao Huang (“Huang”) responded to Plaintiff’s post on behalf of Vanke Home Remodel, Inc. (“Vanke”) and met with Plaintiff at Plaintiff’s home in April 2022. Huang and Vanke (together, “Defendants”) agreed to do the requested work for $110,000.00. Plaintiff paid $65,000.00 up front, with the remainder to be paid upon completion of the work. The work performed was substandard. In May 2022, before the work was completed, a city inspector discovered the project and informed Plaintiff that a permit had not been obtained and was required. Plaintiff told Defendants to restore the property and to apply for a permit. Huang told Plaintiff they would not complete work and demanded full payment. In June 2022, Huang filed a mechanic’s lien on the property.

On March 25, 2024, Plaintiff filed a complaint, asserting a cause of action against Huang, Vanke and Does 1-10 for:

1.                  Breach of Contract

A Case Management Conference and Order to Show Cayse Re: Failure to File Proof of Service are set for August 7, 2024.

Legal Standard

A demurrer may be made on the grounds that the pleading, inter alia, does not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action and/or is uncertain. (Code Civ. Proc., § 430.10, subds. (e) and (f).)

When considering demurrers, courts read the allegations liberally and in context. In a demurrer proceeding, the defects must be apparent on the face of the pleading or via proper judicial notice. (Donabedian v. Mercury Ins. Co. (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 968, 994.) “A demurrer tests the pleadings alone and not the evidence or other extrinsic matters. Therefore, it lies only where the defects appear on the face of the pleading or are judicially noticed.” (SKF Farms v. Superior Court (1984) 153 Cal.App.3d 902, 905 [citations omitted].) At the pleading stage, a plaintiff need only allege ultimate facts sufficient to apprise the defendant of the factual basis for the claim against him. (Semole v. Sansoucie (1972) 28 Cal. App. 3d 714, 721.) “[A] demurrer does not, however, admit contentions, deductions or conclusions of fact or law alleged in the pleading, or the construction placed on an instrument pleaded therein, or facts impossible in law, or allegations contrary to facts of which a court may take judicial knowledge.” (S. Shore Land Co. v. Petersen (1964) 226 Cal.App.2d 725, 732 [citations omitted].)

Discussion

Huang demurs, per Code of Civil Procedure § 430.10, subdivisions (e) and (f), to Plaintiff’s complaint, on the basis that it fails to state facts sufficient to constitute causes of action and is uncertain.

Huang’s demurrer is sustained, with leave given to amend. Huang asserts that Plaintiff’s allegations against Huang are derivative of Plaintiff’s claims against Vanke on an alter ego theory, which has been deficiently plead. “To recover on an alter ego theory, a plaintiff need not use the words “alter ego,” but must allege sufficient facts to show a unity of interest and ownership, and an unjust result if the corporation is treated as the sole actor.” (Leek v. Cooper (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 399, 415.) Plaintiff’s alter ego allegation is set forth in Paragraph 6 and reads, in its entirety, as follows: “At all relevant times, HUANG acted as an agent and, on information and belief, the alter-ego of VANKE, and in doing the things alleged herein acted within the course and scope of such agency and in the capacity of alter-ego of VANKE.” This is insufficient.

Plaintiff, in response, asserts that she has also pled a direct claim against Huang. However, while the court acknowledges that Plaintiff, in Paragraph 11 of the complaint, alleges that “Huang and Vanke agreed to do the requested work,” Plaintiff had already pled, in Paragraph 9 therein, that Huang responded to the post and met with Plaintiff “on behalf of Vanke.”