Monthly Archives: January 2015

Richardson v. Franc- easements, licenses, and litigation

Click here for opinion

Richardson v. Franc is a case of once happy neighbors becoming less so.

There was peace for many years.  For their driveway, James Richardson and Lisa Donetti (“respondents”) had an access easement over their neighbors’ property.  The boundaries of the easement had beautiful landscaping and an expensive and  complicated irrigation and lighting system around and under the driveway.  The respondents and their predecessors maintained the easement with their neighbors for over 20 years.

The Francs bought the neighboring property in 2004.  For six years, they lived in harmony.  In late 2010, the discord began.  Mr. Franc cut the irrigation and electrical lines without notice and then had an attorney send a letter demanding the removal of all landscaping within five days.  Litigation ensued.

The trial court held that there was an irrevocable license to maintain the landscaping and supporting systems.  The Francs appealed.

The landscaping exceeded the defined purpose of the access easement.  The Francs’ predecessor permitted, however, if not encouraged, the landscaping, creating a revocable license.  A license is typically revocable, but can become irrevocable when the grantor knowingly allows acts that involve substantial amounts of money and improvement.  It would then be unfair to terminate the license, which becomes irrevocable.

Licenses and easements are creatures of equity and fairness.  The Francs lost their right to claim fairness when they cut the lines.  The court’s opinion did not say that bad people should not prevail, but I expect that the trial court judge and the appellate panel probably thought it.

Montano v. The Wet Seal- The Private Attorney General Doctrine Trumps The FAA

Recently, I commented on the McGill case, which affirmed a broad measure of federal preemption of state restrictions on the enforceability of arbitration agreements.  The prior article is:

McGill v Citibank- More Federal Preemption For Arbitration Agreements.

The Second District of the California Court of Appeals recently issued Montano v. The Wet Seal.  The opinion affirmed the liberal preemption scope of the Federal Arbitration Act, but, since this case involved an attempt to waive the protections afforded by the the California Labor Code and the Private Attorney General Act, returned to Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348.  The court held that Iskanian still controlled its narrow field of where California rules can require a court to void an arbitration agreement.

This new case does not break new ground or invite the United States Supreme Court to wield its hammer of preemption.  It does, however, provide some strengthening of Iskanian should the federal courts question the ability of California to reserve matters for its courts that could be suitable for prosecution by its Attorney General.