Practice Areas & Industries: Hill, Farrer & Burrill LLP


Real Estate and Land Use Litigation Return to Practice Areas & Industries

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Practice/Industry Group Overview

Hill Farrer & Burrill LLP has significant experience in all types of real property litigation.  We regularly represent property owners in litigation involving purchase and sale agreements, easements and rights of way, and lease issues.  We also handle claims for specific performance of real estate contracts as well as issues concerning boundaries, encroachments and title issues.  We represent shopping center owners and tenants on issues involving lease termination, exclusivity and other landlord-tenant issues.  Of course, we also have significant experience in litigation against governmental entities, including eminent domain and inverse condemnation as well as land use litigation, and claims between co-owners of real estate, such as fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and partition actions.  All told, Hill Farrer has almost two hundred published decisions in the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal, many of which have involved real estate litigation.

Hill Farrer regularly represents clients in various aspects of land use, including zoning and entitlement disputes as well as litigation.  We assist clients work through the complex issues in developing and permitting large tracts as well as in-fill development.  We also represent clients with respect to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), both in compliance with that act and in CEQA litigation.  When land use controls overreach, leading to a regulatory taking of property, we represent owners in inverse condemnation matters.

Representative Matters

  • Served as lead counsel for defendant national railroad company in a suit brought by a public water agency.  The agency intended to build a canal that crossed tracks owned and operated by the railroad.  The agency contended that its rights to the land were superior and that the railroad was required to either relocate its operations, or pay millions of dollars for the additional cost to tunnel the canal beneath the tracks as opposed to having an open channel canal on the surface of the land.  Obtained a complete defense verdict at trial.
  • Dawn Investment Co., Inc. v. Superior Court 30 Cal.3d 695 (1982):  Represented an institutional lender as amicus curiae in a case involving the enforceability of a “due on sale” clause in the wake of Wellenkamp v. Bank of America
  • Summa Corp. v. California Ex Rel. State Lands Commission, 466 U.S. 198 (1984):  Represented owner of real property in defense of claims by the City of Los Angeles and the State of California to the effect that the property was subject to a public trust easement for navigation, commerce and fisheries.
  • Obtained judgment in favor of client following week-long Bench trial in boundary dispute lawsuit, quieting title in favor of client, granting client a permanent injunction, and granting client affirmative relief.
  • Obtained judgment for specific performance and damages, including attorneys’ fees, in favor of client seeking specific performance of real estate option to purchase, following week-long bench trial.
  • Prevailed at trial in a fraud claim brought against our client, a real estate broker, which was accused of failing to disclose a threat that the subject property might be condemned by a redevelopment agency.  Other successful defenses, at trial, of brokers accused of failing to investigate and disclose various defects in property.
  • At trial in U.S. District Court, defeated claim for slander of title and interference with contract arising out of the recording of lis pendens on a substantial number of properties in several states.
  • Defeated claim for substantial loan brokerage fee based upon nonexistence of broker’s license.
  • Represented lender in litigation in which the lender was accused of interfering with the contract of a real estate broker who held a listing to sell an office building.
  • Successfully represented lenders in claims by borrowers for lender liability.
  • Represented property owners where trespassers, engaging in recreational activities on the properties, filed suit for personal injury arising out of claimed defects on the properties.  See e.g. Myers v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 752
  • Successfully prosecuted and defended partners in various real estate ventures as to claims between partners, and from third parties, alleging fraud, mismanagement, defalcation, and breach of fiduciary duty
  • Successfully represented buyers in specific performance cases against recalcitrant sellers
  • Represented a property owner in litigation in which a tenant sought to exercise the tenant’s option to purchase the shopping center.  Result:  option exercise disallowed; held that the tenant had improperly interfered with the appraisal and that the appraiser had failed to disclose conflicts of interest prior to undertaking the appraisal assignment.
  • Prevailed at trial and on appeal in our representation of owner and developer of Home Depot Center, the Galaxy soccer stadium in Carson, in a CEQA challenges brought by neighborhood groups seeking to prevent the construction and operation of the stadium.
  • Prevailed at trial of liability for inverse condemnation in action whether government agency had preserved property within a future right of way, essentially refusing to allow development within an area planned for future infrastructure.  After the liability finding, the case settled for $4,500,000 plus reimbursement of litigation expenses.  Settled before trial several other similar cases based upon claimed preservation of property for future public improvements.
  • Prevailed on appeal in an inverse condemnation case involving the El Capitan Theatre.  The retrial led to a finding of liability after which the case settled.  Our client also received an award for the fees and costs it incurred in the case from initial trial, on appeal, and on the retrial.  Cuna Mutual Insurance v. Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 382
  • Persuaded the Court of Appeal to overrule a well established 15-year old precedent to find that that the voluntary release of a lapsed claim of mechanic’s lien does not preclude the claimant from filing a foreclosure action based on a new claim for the same work.
  • Defended a large residential developer in an action by the condominium HOA and owners attacking the CC&Rs and alleging fraud in the sale of units and many claims for equitable relief.  Was sole attorney in the 10 week trial in Indio, which resulted in a judgment for the developer.
  • Long term representation of a build-and-hold developer of office properties, advising the client regarding the voluntary cleanup of contaminated brownfields, obtaining no further action letters so that development may proceed and successfully prosecuting cost recovery actions against responsible parties.  Recently, assisting this client in successfully obtaining public financing for a new project when conventional, private financing was unavailable due to the credit crisis.
  • Represented executor of probate estate in negotiation of creditor claim against the decedent's collection of gold and silver bars, rare coins, and currency.
  • Represented plaintiff in a 210-day jury trial of a real estate fraud action against the seller of the property.  That trial is believed to be one of the longest civil case trials in the history of the California court system.  The case was affirmed on appeal, after which a multi-million dollar settlement was promptly paid by the seller.
  • Represented landowner involved in a dispute with a neighboring sewage treatment plant regarding scope of easement to discharge treated effluent on landowner’s property.  Successfully brought “anti-SLAPP” motion against sewage treatment company on grounds that the sewage treatment company was attempting to infringe on landowner’s first amendment rights of free speech and petition. Sewage treatment company has appealed and the appeal has been fully briefed. The parties are currently awaiting oral argument.
  • On behalf of large interstate railroad, obtained summary adjudication of all damage claims asserted against railroad in action involving viability of railroad easement.  Railroad eventually obtained judgment in its favor on all remaining claims at trial.  Judgment upheld by California Court of Appeal.
  • Obtained $1.2 million dollar judgment in lessor's favor in a breach of commercial lease, breach of lease covenants, and waste action.
  • Obtained favorable settlement of complaint alleging numerous violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act filed in the United States District Court for Central District of California against restaurant and property owner in La Cañada, California.
  • Obtained favorable settlement on quiet title, partition, declaratory relief action, including resolution of client’s cross-claims for adverse possession, which claims arose out of breach of joint venture agreement involving million dollar residential home in Beverly Hills, California.
  • Successful defense obtained after highly contested trial of quiet title action involving multi-million dollar residential real property in Beverly Hills.
  • Represented property owner against plaintiff’s effort to force owner client to sell real property at a substantially reduced value due to irregularities in property zoning discovered during escrow.  Plaintiff refused to go through with purchase, but also refused to close escrow, and demanded that client resolve zoning irregularity.  Years later, when zoning irregularity was cleared up, plaintiff sought to force sale at the prior agreed upon price despite drastic increase in property value due to rise in real estate market.  Obtained defense verdict at trial.
  • Successfully defended a property owner in the trial of an action by adjoining property owner for damages arising from property line dispute.  Obtained favorable verdict for client at trial.
  • Represented property owner against property homeowners association seeking to force client to pay improper and substantial assessments.  Successfully obtained summary judgment for client, completely resolving litigation in client’s favor.
  • Represented the owner of property where contracting party wrongfully sought to exercise option to force client to sell property at a substantially below market price.  Obtained summary judgment for client, and then recovered full award of attorneys fees.
  • Negotiated the purchase and sale agreements and handled escrow and closing on behalf of several high profile entertainment clients, both as sellers and buyers of luxury residential homes.
  • Served as lead counsel for defendant national railroad in a real estate dispute in which landowners alleged that the railroad had abandoned property rights, those rights had reverted to the landowners and the railroad violated their rights by attempting to sell those rights on the open market.  Obtained defense verdict at trial and prevailed on subsequent appeal.