Nathaniel Lucey and Steve Dollar Win Real Estate Non-Disclosure Case

February 2014

Senior Associate Nathaniel Lucey assisted Partner Steve Dollar in obtaining a defense verdict in a two week jury trial in Santa Cruz in February 2014. In the case of Sutherland v Dorman the cross-complainant buyers sued a real estate agent and broker for Fraud, Concealment, Breach of Fiduciary Duty and Negligence in connection with the 2010 purchase of a $2.5 million ocean view home in Aptos, California. The buyers had purchased the home using a financing mechanism variously known as a “wrap-around deed of trust” or “all inclusive note and deed of trust.” In essence, the buyers assumed the obligation to pay the existing loans in the name of the seller, and had five years to pay off the notes or refinance.

A year after the purchase the buyers stopped making payments, claiming that they had been misled about the prospects of improving a primitive path to the beach. They also claimed that the (dual) agent had concealed the seller’s willingness to structure the deal as a lease-option, which arguably would have reduced the commission. Before the case went to the jury, Mr. Lucey succeeded in Nonsuit motions dismissing all claims against the supervising broker and dismissing punitive damage claims against the supervising broker and the real estate brokerage firm. Also, at the outset of the case he successfully argued multiple Motions in Limine that barred the introduction of evidence of several components of cross-complainants’ damage claims. After less than an hour of deliberation, the jury returned a defense verdict on all counts.

Mr. Lucey can be reached at the San Jose office at 408.286.0880 or at