Real property disputes follow the fluctuations and disruptions of the real estate market. Rising property values trigger specific performance claims. When credit tightens, loan disputes emerge. When recessions hit, leasing disputes, loan workouts, misrepresentation claims and insolvency considerations all come into the picture. Our attorneys draw on several decades of legal and real-world experience and acumen to help their clients anticipate and resolve problems at their outset, and to devise and implement litigation and dispute-resolution strategies customized to fit the client’s goals and complement their overall operations.
Our firm has a depth of experience in the many sub-areas unique to real property, including title and title insurance, mechanics liens, remedies for construction defects, easements, encroachments, nuisance, reciprocal covenants, common interest developments, and environmental liability. The law in those areas is continually evolving, and we keep current with it. When a client has an issue, we know what to do.
- Our client developed an apartment project that had experienced extended delays and overruns because of surface water drainage problems. The civil engineer denied responsibility, and insisted that the contract limited recovery to the contract price. After a month-long jury trial, we obtained a seven-figure judgment against the civil engineer. We defeated the appeal, and collected the full amount of the judgment for our client, including attorneys’ fees.
- Our client owned an interest in a commercial building in which he leased space for his business. The building was sold, contingent on the business being shut down and the lease surrendered. A local activist retained a large law firm pro bono to prosecute a lawsuit seeking to stop the shutdown and recover damages from our client. With the sale jeopardized, and our client facing a huge damages demand, we put a “full court press” on our client’s liability insurer, showing that its delays in taking on our client’s defense could result in exposure well beyond the policy limits. The insurer fully funded the defense, the mediation, and the full settlement sum. The business closure was completed and the sale escrow closed with no further incident.
- Our clients’ home encroached on their neighbors’ property. The neighbor threatened to destroy the encroaching part, to encroach on parts of our clients’ property, and to unilaterally exact other “compensation.” We obtained a preliminary injunction barring these threatened actions, and negotiated a long-term settlement allowing our clients’ encroachment to remain, without monetary compensation to the neighbor. More importantly, we played a key role in bringing down tempers and allowing a peaceful co-existence between neighbors.
- For many years, our client had acquired income properties in partnership with a friend. After the friend’s death, the surviving spouse sued our client for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. Our defense was to methodically analyze each of the alleged wrongful acts, demonstrating that the surviving spouse’s complaints consisted mostly of “Monday morning quarterbacking” – that is, quarreling with decisions based on wrong guesses about future events (market conditions, occupancy factors, rental rates, etc.). For the most part, our client had anticipated trends correctly, to the great benefit of the surviving spouse. At mediation, we negotiated a successful settlement for a small fraction of the claim.
- Our clients’ rural neighbor bulldozed our clients’ property, with no notice, plans, permit or offer of compensation. This presented our clients with a vexing set of problems: how to restore their land to its original state; how to find the money to do so; how to assure that our clients could supervise the process without being financially responsible for it; how to undo the citations that the county had served on our clients for the non-permitted work; how to get compensated for the damage that could not be repaired; and how to assure that it wouldn’t happen again. We filed a lawsuit, procured a preliminary injunction, demanded discovery, and set up a mediation before a patient and able private neutral. After two marathon mediation sessions, we achieved a settlement that accomplished all of the goals listed above – even a payment of partial compensation to our clients for the damage caused.
- Our client, a joint tenant in a single family residence, faced an action by the other joint tenant for partition by sale, and a claim by the other joint tenant that, in view of his disproportionate financial contributions concerning the property, he was entitled to the lion’s share of the net sales proceeds. We reframed the real estate issues as a Marvin matter, and cross-complained for a portion of the earnings of the other joint tenant during the period that the parties had lived together at the residence. After a fairly short but intense litigation period, we obtained (through mediation) a settlement that gave our client the right to the lion’s share of the net sales proceeds.
- Our developer client entered into a GMAX contract for construction of a multi-story parking structure. The contractor sought several hundred thousand dollars in change orders and extended general conditions. Working closely with the client and the engineers, we methodically picked apart the change orders, correspondence and work logs. We demonstrated that the contractor’s own shortcuts caused much of the overruns and delays, especially in its refusal to wait for the surveyor to set all horizontal controls. Further, drawing extensively on parol evidence, we showed that many items claimed to be outside the scope of the GMAX contract were in fact contemplated by all parties to be part of the contract. Using a mediator with extensive construction and design experience, we negotiated a settlement eliminating the spurious claims.