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Tentative Ruling
Judge Donna Geck
Department 4 SB-Anacapa
1100 Anacapa Street P.O. Box 21107 Santa Barbara, CA 93121-1107

CIVIL LAW & MOTION

MHA Garden Street etc et al vs Trabucco General etc et al

Case No: 1374378
Hearing Date: Fri Apr 18, 2014 9:30

Nature of Proceedings: Motion: Calderon Act to Require MHA Parties to Produce Documents

This is an action in which plaintiffs claim damages from defects in construction. The parties are now engaged in the Calderon process (Civ. Code, § 6000).

 

By this motion, defendant Trabucco General Incorporated (Trabucco) seeks an order pursuant to Civil Code section 6000, subdivisions (n) and (o), requiring plaintiffs MHA Garden Street Owner’s Association and Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara County (collectively, MHA Parties) to produce to Trabucco the following documents:

 

          (1)     “Documents (e.g., loan agreements) containing actual loan terms and conditions and changes, documents (e.g., correspondence and e-mails) as to failure to pay on time and alleged delay in getting takeout financing and the reasons therefor, and discussions, negotiations and loan documents from the take-out financing”;

 

          (2)     “Documents regarding the purported loan from Mental Health Association to MHA Garden Street Apartments, LP, including notes, memos, e-mails and accounting documents”;

 

          (3)     “Documents to justify the inclusion of accountant expense”; and,

 

          (4)     “Documents to specify each amounts claimed for litigation repair work in the prior Singer case, including proof of amounts paid and who paid them (differentiating between the MHA Parties and carriers).” (Motion, at p. 1.)

 

Trabucco asserts that these documents (collectively, the Requested Documents) are needed to evaluate the merits of the MHA Parties’ claims for damages. According to Trabucco, the damage claims include extra interest on a construction loan because of construction delay, interest on a loan between the MHA Parties funding the repair work, fees of their accountants, and expense for litigation and repair work incurred in a prior suit for encroachment, among other things, by a neighbor against MHA and Trabucco. (Motion, at p. 2.) The Requested Documents relate to these damage claims.

 

Trabucco discussed the need for the Requested Documents with counsel for the MHA Parties and the dispute resolution facilitator on November 15, 2013. (Motion, pp. 2-3.) According to Trabucco, the MHA Parties then produced some summary documents, but not the underlying financial documents.

 

In opposition, the MHA Parties assert that these documents are outside of the scope of documents required by Civil Code section 6000, subdivision (e)(1). In addition, the MHA Parties assert that they have produced over 400 pages of documents pertaining strictly to their damages. (Lew decl., ¶¶ 3-7.)

 

As discussed below, Civil Code section 6000 provides for an expedited resolution of this motion.

 

Civil Code section 6000 provides pre-litigation requirements for a homeowner’s association to file a complaint against a builder and other participants in the construction of a common interest development based upon a claim for defects. (Civ. Code, § 6000, subd. (a).) (Note: All further statutory references are to the Civil Code unless otherwise stated.) The process begins with the association serving on the builder (or other defendant) a “Notice of Commencement of Legal Proceedings” with certain required content. (§ 6000, subd. (b).)

 

“Upon receipt of the notice, the respondent shall, within 60 days, comply with the following: [¶] (1) The respondent shall provide the association with access to, for inspection and copying of, all plans and specifications, subcontracts, and other construction files for the project that are reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence regarding the defects claimed. The association shall provide the respondent with access to, for inspection and copying of, all files reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence regarding the defects claimed, including all reserve studies, maintenance records and any survey questionnaires, or results of testing to determine the nature and extent of defects. To the extent any of the above documents are withheld based on privilege, a privilege log shall be prepared and submitted to all other parties. All other potentially responsible parties shall have the same rights as the respondent regarding the production of documents upon receipt of written notice of the claim, and shall produce all relevant documents within 60 days of receipt of the notice of the claim.” (§ 6000, subd. (e)(1).)

 

“Any party may, at any time, petition the superior court in the county where the project is located, upon a showing of good cause, and the court may issue an order, for any of the following, or for appointment of a referee to resolve a dispute regarding any of the following: [¶] … [¶]

          “(2) To resolve any disputes concerning inspection, testing, production of documents, or exchange of information provided for under this section. [¶] … [¶]

          “(7) For any other relief appropriate to the enforcement of the provisions of this section, including the ordering of parties, and insurers, if any, to the dispute resolution process with settlement authority.” (§ 6000, subd. (n)(2), (7).)

 

“A petition filed pursuant to subdivision (n) shall be filed in the superior court in the county in which the project is located. The court shall hear and decide the petition within 10 days after filing. The petitioning party shall serve the petition on all parties, including the date, time, and location of the hearing no later than five business days prior to the hearing. Any responsive papers shall be filed and served no later than three business days prior to the hearing. Any petition or response filed under this section shall be no more than three pages in length.” (§ 6000, subd. (o)(1).)

 

 “All parties shall meet with the dispute resolution facilitator, if one has been appointed and confer in person or by telephone prior to the filing of that petition to attempt to resolve the matter without requiring court intervention.” (§ 6000, subd. (o)(2).)

 

Section 6000, subdivision (e)(1), limits the obligation of the MHA Parties to “inspection and copying of, all files reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence regarding the defects claimed, including all reserve studies, maintenance records and any survey questionnaires, or results of testing to determine the nature and extent of defects.” The focus of section 6000 is on identifying the nature and extent of alleged defects. (See § 6000, subds. (b), (h).) As a procedure to expedite a voluntary settlement of the action, section 6000 does not generally provide for discovery beyond the statutorily mandated disclosures.

 

The Requested Documents are outside of the scope of the disclosures required by section 6000. The Requested Documents all relate to financial injury claimed as damages, not to the nature or extent of the defects. The MHA Parties were not required to produce these documents under section 6000, subdivision (e)(1), and consequently, there is no basis for the court to order production based upon the obligation of subdivision (e)(1).

 

Moreover, to the extent that the court may exercise authority to require production of documents outside of subdivision (e)(1), the court’s exercise of such authority would be predicated upon a meet and confer process with counsel and the dispute resolution facilitator. The evidence presented in this motion is that the need for the documents was discussed in November 2013 and some documents were produced in response to that discussion which Trabucco asserts were insufficiently complete. There is no evidence that the insufficiency of the documents were discussed with counsel and the dispute resolution facilitator.

 

In the absence of a statutory obligation to produce those documents and of a meet and confer process addressing the sufficiency of the documents that were produced, the court will deny this motion to require the production of additional documents.

 

Tentative Ruling:

For the reasons set forth herein, the motion of defendant Trabucco General Incorporated to require production of documents pursuant to Civil Code section 6000 is denied.