California First District Court of Appeal upholds decision in inheritance dispute

By Angela Underwood | Jul 14, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO —  An appeals court won't award an additional three years of back-owed rent in a dispute between two sisters over an inherited house, according to a ruling released on July 17.

The First District Court of Appeal ruled that plaintiff Donna Lee Parker and the executor of her sister Twila Adele Parker must accept the lower court award of $29,665 in back-owed "rent" owed to Donna. The lower court ruling involved a home the sisters inherited from their parents, which turned into a long-time tumultuous family feud.

The strife stems from both sisters being named on the San Francisco family property by their parents. Amendments by the sisters' mother after their father's death gave Twila the right of occupancy and later added Donna and her husband, Paul Fappiano, to the right of occupancy for life.  But “the third amendment was silent as to whether either sister was entitled to occupancy, singly or together,” according to the appeals court decision. 

The probate court found that because both sisters were beneficial owners, they both had a right to live in the house until Twila “effectively excluded” Donna from the property in 2011, to which she was "ordered to pay the trust the rental value of the house for the continuing exclusion,” according to the appeals court decision.

But that was not acceptable to Donna, who appealed, arguing that she should have been awarded ouster damages from 2008, when she was purportedly put out of the home by changed locks. Donna contended she deserved the full rental value amount lost from her eviction, totaling $79,080, and that the probate court should grant damages to her and not from the family property trust.

Lauren Bell Parker-Sanders, the executor, argued that ouster damages should not have been awarded at all. 

"We agree with neither position," the appeals court wrote in its ruling. "Seeing no error warranting reversal, we shall affirm [the lower court's ruling]."

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