Case of the Month – De Martini v. The Superior Court of San Mateo County

In the intricate landscape of real estate transactions, disputes can often arise, leading parties down a complex path of legal proceedings. A recent case sheds light on the intricacies of such disputes and the significance of lis pendens in property matters.

The saga began in 2020 when an agreement was made to sell a commercial property. However, as is sometimes the case, a dispute erupted, prompting the parties to enter arbitration. Unsatisfied with the outcome, one party sought to confirm the arbitration award through legal channels and recorded a lis pendens on the property. This action, intended to signal the pending litigation, marked the beginning of a legal battle that would take twists and turns.

Following a successful judgment confirming the arbitration award, the case was abandoned after the other party successfully moved to expunge the lis pendens. Seemingly undeterred, the party initiated a new action aimed at compelling the completion of the sale and once again recorded a lis pendens on the property. This move triggered a legal showdown, with the argument that court permission was required to record a subsequent lis pendens under the relevant legal provisions.

The matter came before the Court of Appeal, where a petition was made for a writ of mandate. In a decision that would have implications beyond the immediate parties involved, the court ruled in favor, highlighting critical points of law and procedure.

Central to the court’s decision was the interpretation of relevant code governing the recording of lis pendens in successive proceedings. The court clarified that this provision indeed requires a claimant to obtain court permission before recording a lis pendens on the same property in a subsequent proceeding if a prior lis pendens has been expunged. This ruling underscored the importance of judicial oversight in managing the impact of lis pendens on property rights and transactions.

Moreover, the court addressed the standard of proof required in determining the probable validity of a real property claim, emphasizing the preponderance of evidence standard over the prima facie standard applied by the trial court. This shift in standards reflects the court’s commitment to ensuring a thorough examination of the merits of a claim before allowing it to encumber real property through a lis pendens.

In the aftermath of the court’s decision, clarity emerged in the realm of property disputes, reaffirming the principles of due process and fair adjudication. The case serves as a reminder to parties involved in real estate transactions of the importance of understanding the legal mechanisms at play, particularly when disputes arise.

As stakeholders navigate the complexities of property transactions, the significance of lis pendens and its implications cannot be overstated. In the dynamic landscape of real estate law, informed decision-making and adherence to legal procedures are essential to safeguarding property rights and ensuring equitable resolution of disputes.