Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

Plaintiff real estate sellers appealed a judgment of the Superior Court of San Bernardino (California), which granted a Code Civ. Proc., § 425.16, special motion to strike the sellers’ complaint against defendants, the buyer, a city, and others, alleging causes of action for breach of contract, fraud, conspiracy to defraud, and other theories.

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Overview

The buyer purchased two parcels of real property from the sellers and discussed with them the possibility of creating a new street. The purchase agreement did not include any terms or requirements for preserving street access to the remaining parcels owned by the sellers. Thereafter, instead of creating a new street, the buyer decided to provide an easement for emergency vehicle access and a truck alley. The sellers alleged that their remaining parcels were wrongfully deprived of street access. The court held that the trial court erroneously granted the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion because the sellers raised only collateral or incidental facts with respect to any conduct falling within the definition in Code Civ. Proc., § 425.16, subd. (e)(2), of statements made in connection with official proceedings. Not all cases involving developments and applications for public permits arose from protected activity. The requests for approval of land use planning items were made only in conjunction with the principal business transaction. As to consultants and other agents, their acts also could not be characterized as arising from any protected conduct.

Outcome

The court reversed the trial court’s grant of the motion to strike, reversed the trial court’s award of attorney fees and costs, and remanded the matter with directions to enter new orders denying the motions and to allow further appropriate proceedings.

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