Mediation Was A Condition Precedent To Litigating And Failure To Mediate Had Earlier Prevented The Homeowner From Suing To Enforce A Settlement Agreement
The homeowner (an in pro per attorney) and homeowner’s association (HOA) have been involved in a battle royal resulting in four appeals. Appeal No. 1: trial court dismisses homeowner’s lawsuit as settled; affirmed on appeal. Appeal No. 2: Homeowner challenges settlement, three of 15 defendants are dismissed after winning anti-SLAPP motion; affirmed on appeal. Appeal No. 3: Defendants who prevailed in first appeal are awarded attorney’s fees; affirmed on appeal. Trial court enters judgment on dismissal after an order sustaining demurrer without leave to amend, filed in case with the 15 defendants. And this leads to the fourth appeal. Adams v. Newport Crest Homeowners Association, G045590 (4th Dist. Div. 3 August 16, 2012) (Moore, J., author) (unpublished.)
The HOA asserted the homeowner’s claims concerning breach of the settlement agreement had been fully adjudicated and resolved by the first appeal, barring further claims under the doctrine of res judicata. In Appeal No. 1, the Court of Appeal held that the settlement agreement was binding and that disputes thereunder had first to be submitted to a mediator, rather than a court.
However, by the time of Appeal No.4, homeowner and HOA had mediated. Furthermore, homeowner purported to state new wrongs related to the implementation of the settlement agreement going forward from the time of settlement. Therefore, homeowner had complied with the requirement that she mediate first before litigating, and homeowner was not trapped by res judicata, because the wrongs she sought to allege were fresh ones.
“It would appear that Adams [the homeowner] has not always understood this court’s directions to her,” said the court. “However, this time,” the court added, “her understanding was ‘spot on’.”
The judgment of dismissal was reversed. The homeowner will be allowed to amend her complaint. Also, the HOA’s request for additional attorney’s fees was rejected, as the judgment was reversed. The homeowner is batting .250 on appeals with her HOA.
NOTE: On July 1, 2012, we posted on the earlier appeal, in which the Court of Appeal affirmed the fee award in favor of the HOA, resulting from the homeowner’s failure to mediate, which failure resulted in a violation of the settlement agreement.