Miller v. Kline




Miller v. Kline



Filed 1/16/08 Miller v. Kline CA2/7


NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTS









California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.


IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA


SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT


DIVISION SEVEN



MINON MILLER,


Plaintiff and Appellant,


v.


EVERETT K. KLINE,


Defendant and Respondent.



B193605


(Los Angeles County


Super. Ct. No. TC019151)



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Josh M. Fredricks, Judge. Affirmed.


Minon Miller, in pro. per; Thomasina M. Reed for Plaintiff and Appellant.


Everett K. Kline, in pro. per., for Defendant and Respondent.


_




Minon Miller lived with Everett K. Kline for nearly 12 years. They raised a family together, but never married. Miller sued Kline for a half interest in the house they bought in 1995, a share of the funds he borrowed against the equity in the house and reimbursement of the sums she contributed for home improvements. She also asserted causes of action for breach of oral and implied contract under Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660, alleging Kline had promised to support her in return for her efforts in caring for the house and their children, and, alternatively, sought quantum meruit damages for the reasonable value of the services she had provided to him. Following a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Kline. We affirm.


FACTUAL BACKGROUND


Miller and Kline met and became intimately involved in 1992. In September 1993 their daughter R.K. was born; the following year they decided to marry and began looking for a home to buy together. Although they considered themselves a family and Kline held Millers older daughter N.K. out as his stepdaughter, they postponed their wedding in order not to lose the Social Security benefits Miller was receiving through her late husband.[1] In January 1995 they decided to buy a fixer-upper home together but, due to Millers poor credit rating, applied for a Veterans Administration loan using Klines name only. Miller contributed a portion of the down-payment with the understanding Kline would quitclaim an interest in the house after the purchase was completed.


The relationship did not work out exactly as Miller had expected. As Kline testified, Ms. Miller and I started house hunting and found a discount home. We bid[] on the home and paid $1,000 and I signed the deed with the agreement that I would quit claim her on the deed. . . . It took about three months to get the home in living condition where we could move in. We moved in together and shortly after that time I did not want to add her to the deed. I couldnt trust her. She was ‑‑ it was just hard for me to even make that leap of faith to say, okay, Im going to sign a document; Im going to put you on it, although, I never told her that.[2]


Despite Klines lack of trust, he continued to live in the home with Miller and the two girls until 2005. In 1996 Miller quit her job to spend more time with the family, which she testified was done with Klines agreement to support her and the children. Although it appears they continued to hold themselves out as a family, the testimony at trial portrayed a stormy relationship filled with financial conflicts. Miller claimed Kline siphoned money from the house starting in 1998 in the form of loans based on the homes increasing equity and kept the proceeds for his own personal use. Kline asserted, in turn, Miller incurred large amounts of debts in his name and fraudulently wrote checks on his account without his permission. Miller sued Kline for child support in 1999, and he reciprocated by charging her with tax and check fraud. When a defrauded lender pursued her for checks she had written on Klines account, she was forced into bankruptcy. In 2004 the relationship ended when Miller ordered Kline out of the house after she caught him spending time and money with a new girlfriend. In 2005 Kline served Miller with an eviction notice, and Miller responded with this lawsuit.


The case was tried to the court. Both Miller and Kline were allowed to speak at length regarding the course of their relationship. Miller also submitted a number of exhibits she believed corroborated her account of the facts. The court asked each party specific questions in an effort to clarify the contradictory testimony they had given and then took the matter under submission. Several days later the court issued a judgment in favor of Kline. The minute order containing the judgment stated, There is no common law marriage in California. Plaintiff has not presented sufficient credible evidence to rebut title; nor establish[ed] an oral or implied contract, nor any other cause of action pled.


CONTENTIONS


Miller contends the trial court should have granted her equitable relief in the form of quantum meruit and urges us to remand the case for reconsideration of that claim.


DISCUSSION


It is a fundamental rule of appellate review that a judgment is presumed correct. All intendments and presumptions are indulged to support it on matters as to which the record is silent, and error must be affirmatively shown. (Denham v. Superior Court (1970) 2 Cal.3d 557, 564; see also In re Marriage of Arceneaux (1990) 51 Cal.3d 1130, 1133.) To overcome this presumption, the appellant must provide an adequate appellate record demonstrating error. (Maria P. v. Riles (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1281, 1295-1296.) The record is inadequate when it appears to show any need for speculation or inference in determining whether error occurred. (Lincoln Fountain Villas Homeowners Assn. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Ins. Co. (2006) 136 Cal.App.4th 999, 1003-1004, fn. 1, quoting Eisenberg et al., Cal. Practice Guide: Civil Appeals and Writs (The Rutter Group 2005) 4:43, p. 4-10-1.) If an inadequate record has been provided, we must affirm the judgment. (Estrada v. Ramirez (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 618, 620, fn. 1 [burden is on appellants to provide adequate record on appeal to demonstrate error; failure to do so precludes an adequate review and results in affirmance of the trial courts determination].)


These well-established principles compel us to conclude the trial court found against Miller on her quantum meruit cause of action, as well as her other claims: Miller, who represented herself at trial but has counsel on appeal, has simply failed to provide the record necessary to establish error. What was Miller required to do? First, she should have asked the trial court for a statement of decision under Code of Civil Procedure section 632,[3]which would have explained the factual and legal bases for the trial courts decision. Second, once the court issued its statement of decision, she was required by section 634 to bring any ambiguities and omissions in the statement of decision to the courts attention. As the Supreme Court explained in In re Marriage of Arceneaux, supra, 51 Cal.3d at page 1133: Sections 632 and 634 . . . set forth the means by which to avoid application of these inferences in favor of the judgment. When the court announces its tentative decision, a party may, under section 632, request the court to issue a statement of decision explaining the basis of its determination, and shall specify the issues on which the party is requesting the statement; following such a request, the party may make proposals relating to the contents of the statement. Thereafter, under section 634, the party must state any objection to the statement in order to avoid an implied finding on appeal in favor of the prevailing party. (Fn. omitted.) The clear implication of section 634 is that if a party fails to bring omissions or ambiguities in the statement of decisions factual findings to the trial courts attention, then that party waives the right to claim on appeal that the statement was deficient in these regards; and the appellate court will infer the trial court made implied factual findings to support the judgment. (Id. at pp. 1133-1134.)


Millers challenge to the trial courts findings and judgment, based on a claim of insufficient evidence, is also doomed by the governing standard of review: In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of evidence, our inquiry is limited to whether, on the entire record, substantial evidence supports the judgment. (Kuhn v. Department of General Services (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 1627, 1633.) We must view the record in the light most favorable to respondent and resolve all inferences in support of the judgment. (Milton v. Perceptual Development Corp. (1997) 53 Cal.App.4th 861, 867.) We are also precluded from second-guessing the trial courts credibility determinations. (Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court (2004) 34 Cal.4th 319, 334 [questions as to the weight and sufficiency of the evidence, the construction to be put upon it, the inferences to be drawn therefrom, the credibility of witnesses . . . and the determination of [any] conflicts and inconsistencies in their testimony are matters for the trial court to resolve]; Beck Development Co. v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co. (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 1160, 1204 [testimony of a witness offered in support of a judgment may not be rejected on appeal unless it is physically impossible or inherently improbable and such inherent improbability plainly appears].) When the record as a whole shows a reasonable trier of fact could have found in favor of respondent, we must affirm. (Kuhn, at p. 1633.)


There is unquestionably substantial evidence in the record to support the trial courts judgment. As the court indicated in its minute order, Kline is presumed to be the beneficial, as well as legal, owner of the home because title to the house was in his name only.[4] (See Murray v. Murray (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 1062, 1067 [Evidence Code section 662 has application, by its express terms, when there is no dispute as to where legal title resides but there is question as to where all or part of the beneficial title should rest].) To prevail on her claim to a share of that title, Miller was required to rebut this presumption by clear and convincing evidence, a standard the court expressly found she did not meet. (See Toney v. Nolder (1985) 173 Cal.App.3d 791, 796-797 [reversing judgment in favor of plaintiff alleging oral agreement to transfer interest in property when plaintiff had failed to meet clear and convincing standard of proof]; Maglica v. Maglica (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 442, 449, fn. 3 [following Toney: There is no difference, in substance, between asserting that an unmarried partner has breached a fiduciary duty to hold property ‑‑ not just real property ‑‑ in trust for the other and asserting direct rights in that property].) The same holds true for Millers claims of breach of oral and implied contract; we must defer to the courts express finding no such contract existed based on its assessment of the credibility of both Miller and Kline.


As to Millers claim for quantum meruit, we again decline to second-guess the trial courts determination she failed to present credible evidence to establish her entitlement to remuneration from Kline for the reasonable value of her services. Millers uncorroborated assertion she provided services to Kline and the family worth thousands of dollars is wholly inadequate to establish a right to recover a particular sum of money.[5] Millers alternative claim for the amount by which her services benefited Kline misapprehends the proper basis for recovery in quantum meruit, which is based on the value of the services conferred, not the value of the benefit. (Maglica v. Maglica, supra, 66 Cal.App.4th at p. 449 [quantum meruit allows recovery for the value of beneficial services, not the value by which someone benefits from those services]; see Palmer v. Gregg (1967) 65 Cal.2d 657, 660 [[t]he measure of recovery in quantum meruit is the reasonable value of the services rendered].)


DISPOSITION


The judgment is affirmed. Kline is to recover his costs on appeal.


NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTS


PERLUSS, P. J.


We concur:


WOODS, J.


ZELON, J.


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[1] Miller admitted she decided to postpone marrying Kline until her daughters benefits expired when she reached the age of 16 in 2004.


[2] Notwithstanding this seeming admission he had originally promised to quit claim an interest in the property to Miller, Kline subsequently denied any such agreement.


[3] Statutory references are to the Code of Civil Procedure unless otherwise indicated.


[4] Evidence Code section 662 provides: The owner of the legal title to property is presumed to be the owner of the full beneficial title. This presumption may be rebutted only by clear and convincing proof.


[5] The measure of a nonmarital partners recovery in quantum meruit is the reasonable value of household services rendered less the reasonable value of support received assuming the plaintiff can show she rendered services with the expectation of monetary reward. (Marvin v. Marvin, supra, 18 Cal.3d at p. 684.) Were we even to reach the point of considering whether Miller established the predicate facts in light of her failure to request a statement of decision, she offered no evidence of the value of the services she claimed to have rendered and admitted she received as much as $30,000 from Kline over the course of the relationship.



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