Adams Antioch Warehouse L.P. v. City of Antioch

Docket NumberA161915
Decision Date15 December 2021
PartiesADAMS ANTIOCH WAREHOUSE L.P., Plaintiff and Appellant, v. CITY OF ANTIOCH, Defendant and Respondent.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

Contra Costa County Super. Ct. No. C18-02260

SIMONS, ACTING P.J.

Plaintiff and appellant Adams Antioch Warehouse L.P. (Adams) appeals from the trial court's judgment following its order sustaining the demurrer of defendant and respondent City of Antioch (City) to the five causes of action against it in Adams's Second Amended Complaint (SAC). We affirm as to one cause of action, but we reverse as to the remaining four causes of action.

BACKGROUND

In 1947, a certain tract of land in Antioch was subdivided into lots and streets and represented on a map filed with the Contra Costa County Recorder. The 1947 map depicted a street named Cesa Lane. In 1962, in Resolution No. 1993-A (1962 Resolution), City abandoned Cesa Lane as a public street. The 1962 Resolution found Cesa Lane had "never been used as a public street or for any other public purpose, and that said CESA LANE is unnecessary for present or prospective public street purposes." The 1962 Resolution excepted from the abandonment "the easement and right at any time or from time to time to construct, maintain, operate replace, remove, renew and enlarge lines of pipe, and other convenient equipment and fixtures for the operation of natural gas lines and for incidental purposes including access to protect property from all hazards in, upon and over the portion of CESA LANE hereinbefore abandoned" (Easement). The 1962 Resolution stated the exception was "pursuant to" (former) section 8330 of the Streets and Highways Code.[1]

Appellant Adams owns property abutting Cesa Lane, having acquired title to Lot A on the 1947 subdivision map in 1963.[2] The Adams property has a large commercial warehouse building on it with large bay doors in the rear used by multiple tenants.

In 2001, City adopted Resolution No. 2001/102 (2001 Resolution). The 2001 Resolution was entitled "Resolution of the City Council of the City of Antioch Authorizing Mayor to Execute Quitclaim Deed to Adjoining Property Owner of Cesa Lane." (Capitalization omitted.) The 2001 Resolution referenced the 1962 Resolution; stated, "pursuant to California Civil Code § 831, the adjoining property owner to a vacated street automatically owns to the center of the vacated street;" and recited, "an adjoining property owner, the Railroad Avenue Church of Christ [Church], desires to have a definitive determination of its ownership of the abandoned area of the former street, which can be accomplished by the execution and recordation of a Quitclaim Deed." The City then resolved "that the Mayor is hereby authorized and directed to sign on behalf of the City that certain Quitclaim Deed, a copy of which is attached hereto, regarding this property to the [Church]." Thereafter, a quitclaim deed (Quitclaim) was recorded quitclaiming a portion of Cesa Lane to the Church. Adams did not receive notice before or after recordation of the Quitclaim.

Defendants Jason Walker (owner of fee title), Bank of the West (holder of a security interest by a deed of trust), First Santa Clara Corporation (trustee under a deed of trust), and Service Pros Plumbers, Inc. (holder of a leasehold interest) (collectively, the Walker Defendants), are the successor owners to the Church.[3] In March or April 2018, the Walker Defendants placed a large metal shipping container on a portion of Cesa Lane quitclaimed to the Church in 2001. The obstruction reduced the usable width of the lane, denying Adams, its tenants, customers, and vendors the use of that portion of Cesa Lane. In particular, the shipping container prevents most large trucks from accessing the large bay doors in the rear of the Adams warehouse building.

In November 2018, Adams filed the present action, and, in January 2019, Jason Walker filed a cross-complaint. In March 2020, Adams filed a first amended complaint against the Walker Defendants and City, stating causes of action for declaratory relief, to quiet title, and for an injunction. In May 2020, City demurred to the first amended complaint, contending that the two causes of action against City (for declaratory relief and to quiet title) were untimely. In July 2020, the trial court sustained City's demurrer with leave to amend.

In August 2020, Adams filed the SAC, adding various allegations and adding causes of action against City seeking issuance of a writ of mandate (Code Civ. Proc. § 1085), issuance of a writ of administrative mandate (Code Civ. Proc. § 1094.5), and reformation of the Quitclaim. Adams alleged, among other things, that City violated the Streets and Highways Code in recording the Quitclaim, that the Quitclaim is invalid for several other reasons, and that Adams is the true owner of the disputed portion of Cesa Lane or at least has an easement over that portion.

In September 2020, City demurred to the SAC on two grounds. City contended all of the causes of action were untimely, and City contended the Quitclaim did not constitute abandonment of the Easement. In December 2020, the trial court rejected the latter argument, but sustained the demurrer to the SAC on the ground of untimeliness and several other grounds articulated in its decision, without leave to amend. The trial court entered judgment in favor of City and the present appeal followed.[4]

DISCUSSION

"' "On appeal from an order of dismissal after an order sustaining a demurrer, the standard of review is de novo: we exercise our independent judgment about whether the complaint states a cause of action as a matter of law."' [Citation.] In reviewing the complaint, 'we must assume the truth of all facts properly pleaded by the plaintiffs, as well as those that are judicially noticeable.'" (Travelers Indent. Co. of Connecticut v. Navigators Specialty Ins. Co. (2021) 70 Cal.App.5th 341, 353.) However, "[w]here facts appearing in attached exhibits or judicially noticed documents contradict, or are inconsistent with, the complaint's allegations, we must rely on the facts in the exhibits and judicially noticed documents." (Genis v. Schainbaum (2021) 66 Cal.App.5th 1007, 1015 (Genis).) "We may affirm on any basis stated in the demurrer, regardless of the ground on which the trial court based its ruling." (Navigators Specialty, at p. 353.)

I. Adams's Allegations Support Tolling the Limitations Period Under the Delayed Discovery Rule

The trial court concluded all of Adams's claims against the City were untimely. We conclude the court erred because the allegations in the SAC support tolling under the discovery rule.[5]

Competing policies are balanced through statutes of limitation. "One purpose is to give defendants reasonable repose, thereby protecting parties from 'defending stale claims, where factual obscurity through the loss of time, memory or supporting documentation may present unfair handicaps.' [Citations.] A statute of limitations also stimulates plaintiffs to pursue their claims diligently. [Citations.] A countervailing factor, of course, is the policy favoring disposition of cases on the merits rather than on procedural grounds." (Fox v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. (2005) 35 Cal.4th 797, 806 (Fox).) The statute of limitations generally begins to run when an action accrues, usually on the date of injury. (Bernson v. Browning-Ferris Indus. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 926, 931.)

The "discovery rule" "postpones accrual of a cause of action until the plaintiff discovers, or has reason to discover, the cause of action." (Fox, supra, 35 Cal.4th at p. 807; accord Aryeh v. Canon Business Solutions, Inc. (2013) 55 Cal.4th 1185, 1192 (Aryeh).) A plaintiff has reason to discover a cause of action when the plaintiff has reason to suspect a factual basis for wrongdoing, causation, and harm. (Fox, at p. 807.) "Rather than examining whether the plaintiffs suspect facts supporting each specific legal element of a particular cause of action, we look to whether the plaintiffs have reason to at least suspect that a type of wrongdoing has injured them." (Ibid.) "The discovery rule only delays accrual until the plaintiff has, or should have, inquiry notice of the cause of action." (Ibid.) "[P]laintiffs are required to conduct a reasonable investigation after becoming aware of an injury, and are charged with knowledge of the information that would have been revealed by such an investigation." (Id. at p. 808.)

In support of tolling under the delayed discovery rule, the SAC alleges, "In the latter half of 2018 ... representatives of [Adams] first discovered the existence of the [Quitclaim] when attempting to find out any possible basis for the partial blocking of Cesa Lane. At all times between October 5, 2001 (the date of recording of the [Quitclaim]) and March or early April of 2018 (when the partial blocking of Cesa Lane occurred), there were no facts or circumstances to put [Adams] on notice that the [Quitclaim] existed, in that the full width of the North-South Segment of Cesa Lane remained unobstructed ... and was used by [Adams], their tenants, their tenants' customers, their tenants' vendors, and the fire department, to gain ingress to, and egress from, the Adams real property, including the large bay doors in the rear of the warehouse building. . . . The partial blocking of Cesa Lane in March or early April of 2018, for the first time, made representatives of [Adams] aware that something was different regarding Cesa Lane." (Some capitalization omitted.)

In support of its position that the delayed discovery rule does not apply, City first argues that the Adams limited partnership may not rely on the Adams Trust's "lack of awareness of injury." City cites no...

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