General

Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

Plaintiff sought review of a judgment from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California) sustaining demurrer without leave to amend the second amended complaint for fraud and declaratory relief against the beneficiaries of a trust and for reformation of a trust. Plaintiff also sought relief from the trial court’s judgment of dismissal.

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Overview

Plaintiff sought review of a judgment from the trial court sustaining demurrer without leave to amend the second amended complaint for fraud and declaratory relief against the beneficiaries of a trust and for reformation of a trust, and from judgment of dismissal. The court affirmed the judgment. Plaintiff’s reformation action was barred by the statute of limitations, laches and res judicata. The statute of limitations began to run when plaintiff knew or should have known of facts constituting the alleged mistake. The facts showed that the suit was filed 45 years after the original trust and 25 years after plaintiff reached the age of majority. The court held that plaintiff’s delay in bringing his action was both unjustified and prejudicial. Many witnesses were dead depriving defendant of the ability to use those witnesses. Moreover, plaintiff’s action was barred by res judicata because he participated in prior actions in which the trust was reformed. The court also held that the mistake alleged by plaintiff could not be remedied by the trial court by reformation because it did not reflect a failure accurately to reduce a specific understanding of the parties to writing.

Outcome

The court affirmed and held that plaintiff’s reformation action was barred by the statute of limitations, laches and res judicata. The delay in bringing an action was unjustified and prejudicial to defendants because many of the witnesses were now dead. The court also held that the mistake alleged by plaintiff could not be remedied by reformation because there was no failure to accurately reduce the parties’ understanding to writing.

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