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New Cases of Interest - September 22, 2014
Demetriades v. Yelp, Inc. (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 294. This is a SLAPP case, in which a restaurant operator filed a complaint against Yelp under the unfair competition law and the false advertising law to prevent Yelp from on its website making claims about the accuracy and efficiency of its filter for unreliable or biased customer reviews. The trial court granted the SLAPP motion, but the Court of Appeal reversed. The court held that the claims survived the requirements of the SLAPP statute because although the website's operator provided a public forum and included matters of public concern in its review of restaurants and other business, the website operator's statements about its review filter, as opposed to the content of the reviews themselves, was commercial speech about the quality of its product (the reliability of its review filter) and those statements went beyond mere expressions of opinion or puffery allowing the plaintiff to continue with the litigation.
Alvarez v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 941. This is another in a string of cases in which the borrowers allege that the lenders failed to process applications for modification in a timely manner engaging in "dual tracking" (continuing to pursue foreclosure sales while evaluating the applications for rewriting of the loans involved). The trial court initially found that the lender had no duty of care to the borrowers in the review of their applications. The Court of Appeal however reversed as to the negligence cause of action. The allegation that the lender allegedly agreed to consider modification of the loans weighed in favor of the creation of a duty. It was entirely foreseeable that failing to timely and carefully process the loan modification applications would result in significant harm to the borrowers. The mishandling of the borrower documents, even though there was no assurance that a loan modification would occur, deprived the borrowers of the possibility of obtaining the requested relief. Additionally, the possibility of preventing future harm strongly favored the imposition of a duty of care.
Mendoza v. JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A. (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 1020. This is another in a series of actions involving non-judicial foreclosure sales. The homeowner contended that the borrower was wrongfully foreclosing based on alleged defects in the assignment of the deed of trust, irregularities in the substitution of prior trustees, and flaws in the securitization of the borrower's loan. The borrower's claim was dismissed by the trial court which was upheld on appeal. The Court of Appeal found that the homeowner did not make a specific factual showing that the foreclosing parties did not have the requisite interest in the property to enter a notice of default, notice of trustee's sale and trustee's deed. The securitization issue was deemed to be immaterial to whether the proper parties were foreclosing on the loan. The homeowner also failed to demonstrate that the securitization errors prejudiced her in any way and the court also concluded that she lacked standing to challenge irregularities in the securitization process.