Friday, July 21, 2017
C.A. Upholds Order to Sterling’s Former Girlfriend
Says Judge Fruin Was Correct in Requiring V Stiviano to Make Restitution of Gifts From the Former Owner of L.A. Clippers, Made Without His Wife’s Consent
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday upheld Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin’s order that V Stiviano relinquish gifts, valued at about $2.6 million, which she received from billionaire Donald Sterling, because the former Los Angeles Clippers owner hadn’t received his wife’s consent to the diversion of community funds.
The wife—identified in the opinion as Rochelle H. Sterling but generally known as Shelly Sterling—sued Stiviano (who was born Maria Vanessa Perez but changed her name in 2010) to force her to restore the gifts, or their cash equivalent, to community coffers. Fruin on April 14, 2015, ruled in Shelly Sterling’s favor.
Stiviano was required to relinquish this duplex in Beverly Hills.
He also required that Stiviano relinquish $830,234.45 that had been given to her and transfer the duplex at 8437 West 4th Street in Beverly Hills, which Donald Sterling bought for her, paying $1,781,750.
Other gifts, made from 2011 to 2014, included a 2012 Ferrari, a 2007 Bentley, and a 2013 Range Rover sport utility vehicle.
Spouse’s Permission Needed
Fruin acted under the authority of Family Law Code §1100(b), which provides:
“A spouse may not make a gift of community personal property, or dispose of community personal property for less than fair and reasonable value, without the written consent of the other spouse. This subdivision does not apply to gifts mutually given by both spouses to third parties and to gifts given by one spouse to the other spouse.”
That section did not authorize yanking gifts from her, Stiviano argued on appeal, charging that the trial court “arrived at its own remedy.” The statute only applies to the obligation of one spouse to the other, and does not affect rights of a donee, she insisted.
“This argument utterly ignores well-settled principles of California law,” Acting Justice Michael Johnson said in his opinion for Div. Three.
“For many decades, California courts have applied these provisions—which existed in former statutes recodified in the present Family Code—to hold that gifts or transfers of community personal and real property by one spouse, without the written consent of the other spouse, may be set aside and recovered by the non-consenting spouse,” Johnson wrote, in an opinion that was not certified for publication,
V Stiviano, left, is seen with former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
The jurist, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge sitting on assignment, dismissed the argument that cases upholding the recovery of gifts from third parties are inapposite because they were decided under other code sections. Sec. 1100 is merely a continuation of a Civil Code provision, he said.
Stiviano also argued that the judgment contravenes Civil Code §1148, which provides:
“A gift, other than a gift in view of impending death, cannot be revoked by the giver.”
“Ms. Stiviano’s argument is contrary to the statute itself, which states that a gift “cannot be revoked by the giver.”…Ms. Sterling was not ‘the giver’ of the gifts to Ms. Stiviano; they were given by her husband, Mr. Sterling. In addition, it is well-settled that section 1148 restricts the donor’s ability to revoke a gift, and it does not restrict a court of equity from setting aside a gift on a proper showing.”
A further argument by Stiviano was that Shelly Sterling’s sole remedy is under Family Code §1101 which provides for an action by one spouse against the other for breach of the fiduciary duty in connection with the use of community assets.
“Once again, this argument is contrary to the law,” Johnson declared.
“Nothing in the language of section 1101 suggests it is intended to be an exclusive remedy,” he said. “Indeed, the statute says quite the opposite because it declares that remedies for breach of fiduciary duty ‘shall include, but not be limited to” the specified statutory relief.”
The case is Sterling v. Stiviano, B265237.
Pierce O’Donnell and Ricardo P. Cestero of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger represented Shelly Sterling and Mac E. Nehoray presented Stiviano’s arguments.
Shelly Sterling is seen with her husband of 81 years.
It was Donald Sterling’s recorded conversation with Stiviano—in which he instructed her not to be photographed with blacks or bring them to Clippers games—that caused his lifetime ban from the National Basketball Association and a $2.5 million fine.
Alleging that Donald Sterling was mentally incompetent, Shelly Sterling sought court permission to sell the Clippers, which Los Angeles Superior Court Michael Levanas granted on July 28, 2014. She sold the team for $2 billion.
Donald Stirling filed for divorce in August 2015, but dropped the following March. They have been married for 61 years.
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