Unlawful Detainer Action Cases in California

In Feldman v. 1100 Park Lane Associates (2008) 160 Cal.App.4th 1467, the landlord filed an unlawful detainer action against its tenant and the tenant's subtenants. (Feldman, supra, 160 Cal.App.4th at p. 1473.) The landlord dismissed his action after the tenant gave up his tenancy and the subtenants vacated the premises. (Ibid.) The appellate court held the subtenants' cross-complaint against the landlord was, "with one exception, based upon the filing of the unlawful detainer, service of the three-day notice to quit, and the landlord's agent's statements in connection with the threatened unlawful detainer. These activities are not merely cited as evidence of wrongdoing or activities 'triggering' the filing of an action that arises out of some other independent activity. These are the challenged activities and the bases for all causes of action, except possibly that of negligent misrepresentation." (Id. at p. 1483.) As to the negligent misrepresentation cause of action, the court found that "the anti-SLAPP statute" would not "appear to apply, as the gravamen of the cause of action was not the eviction action or communications or conduct preparatory thereto, but the misleading statements and representations allegedly made to the subtenants by the landlord's agent, upon which they reasonably relied, to their detriment. " (Id. at p. 1484.) In Wallace v. McCubbin (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 1169, defendants made a motion to strike causes of action for wrongful eviction and retaliatory eviction on the ground that the "'gravamen of the claims' was that all defendants served a bogus notice of termination of the tenancy (the three-day notice to quit the premises) and instigated a frivolous and malicious unlawful detainer action, both of which constituted protected activity." (Wallace, supra, 196 Cal.App.4th at p. 1179.) The appellate court held that the tenants' causes of action for wrongful eviction and retaliatory eviction were subject to an anti-SLAPP motion. (Id. at p. 1187.) In explaining its ruling, the court noted that as to the wrongful eviction action, "it makes no sense for plaintiffs to argue that their cause of action for defendants' attempt to evict them wrongfully is not based on defendants' alleged attempt to evict them" (id. at p. 1183), which "according to the complaint, consisted of acts by which defendants attempted to recover possession of the apartment that were, or at least included, the owner's service of the three-day notice to quit and his filing of the unlawful detainer action. Indeed, this is the wrongdoing alleged in the complaint that is most obviously related to a wrongful eviction claim." (Id. at p. 1182.) As to the cause of action for retaliatory eviction, the court found the same protected conduct (service of a three-day notice and prosecution of the ensuing unlawful detainer) was "not merely incidental to any alleged unprotected conduct. The three-day notice and unlawful detainer are two of the acts on which liability is premised, and those acts are certainly not collateral to a cause of action that seeks relief for causing a lessee to quit involuntarily or bringing an action to recover possession." (Id. at p. 1187.)