AP-Colton v. OhaeriAnnotate this Case
Defendants Charles and Stella Ohaeri leased space for a thrift store in a shopping center owned by plaintiff AP-Colton LLC. The thrift store was not a success, and the Ohaeris stopped paying rent. According to the Ohaeris, AP-Colton had fraudulently induced them to enter into the lease by stating that a church was going to move into the space next to theirs, but a competing store moved in instead. AP-Colton originally filed this case as a limited civil action, in which damages were limited to $25,000. The Ohaeris filed a cross-complaint seeking more than $25,000, but they did not pay the $140 fee required to reclassify the case as an unlimited civil action. Thereafter, AP-Colton filed an amended complaint seeking more than $25,000, because the Ohaeris should already have paid the reclassification fee, so AP-Colton did not pay it. After a bench trial, the trial court rejected the Ohaeris' fraud claims and awarded AP-Colton $126,437.25. The Ohaeris argued on appeal of that judgment that among other things, the case remained a limited civil action, and thus, the trial court erred by awarding damages of more than $25,000. The Court of Appeal agreed that the case should have remained a limited civil action. The Ohaeris, however, took the position below that the case had become an unlimited civil action, and the trial court accepted this position by awarding AP-Colton damages in excess of $25,000. The Court of Appeal held that as a result, the Ohaeris were judicially estopped to deny that the case was an unlimited civil action. Accordingly, on condition that it pays the $140 reclassification fee, AP-Colton can recover the full award.