1. Events Preceding the Plaintiffs' Lawsuits
Florence and David Sims owned two parcels of real property, which included a personal residence (theResidence Property) and a two-unit income property (the Income Property; collectively "theProperties"). In 1991, the Simses established the Sims Family Trust, which was funded with theResidence Property and the Income Property. According to the terms of the Trust, upon the Simses'death, the Residence Property was to be distributed to Florence Sims's daughter, Shirley Traylor, andthe Income Property was to be distributed to David Sims's daughter, Yvonne Casonhua. David diedshortly after the Trust was created, leaving Florence then 86 years old as the sole trustee.Shortly after her husband's death, Florence began to exhibit symptoms of dementia. As her medicalcondition deteriorated, Florence developed a confidential relationship with her granddaughter, SheronBerry, who helped Florence make medical decisions. In December of 2001, Florence provided Berry witha power of attorney. Two weeks later, Florence was diagnosed with dementia; she died in April of 2003.After Florence died, Berry recorded two grant deeds that conveyed the Residence Property and theIncome Property from the Sims Family Trust to Berry. The grant deeds indicate that Florence transferredthe Properties to Berry as "bona fide gifts." The grant deeds were purportedly signed by Florence inJanuary of 2002.Between 2004 and 2006, Berry used the Properties to secure several loans. In 2006, she obtained a$440,000 loan from Washington Mutual Bank secured by a deed of trust to the Income Property.
Laterthat year, Berry obtained a loan in the amount of $361,000 from Avelo Mortgage, LLC, which shesecured with a deed of trust to the Residence Property.
In early 2008, Berry defaulted on both loans and Washington Mutual and Avelo initiated foreclosureproceedings. Yvonne Casonhua became aware that Berry had obtained title to the Properties after thelenders affixed notices of foreclosure to each property.
. The Casonhua's Lawsuit and Washington Mutual's Demurrer
In 2008, Yvonne Casonhua and her husband, James Casonhua, filed two, essentially identical complaintsagainst Berry, Washington Mutual, Avelo and Jerral E. Wesley, who notarized Berry's grant deeds. Thefirst suit was brought on behalf of the Estate of Florence Sims (the Florence Sims Complaint) and thesecond was brought on behalf of the Estate of David Sims (the David Sims Complaint).
The complaintsallege that Florence's conveyances to Berry are void under a variety of different legal theories. TheCasonhuas' first claim, which is pleaded against all of the Defendants, alleges that Berry forgedFlorence's signature on the grant deeds, thereby rendering them void. The second and third claims,which are also pleaded against all of the Defendants, allege that, if Florence did sign the grant deeds,they are nonetheless void because Florence "lacked the mental capacity to execute the deeds" or,alternatively, Florence was "unaware of the nature and effect of the deeds." The Florence SimsComplaint includes an additional claim, which is pleaded against Berry only, alleging that Berry "exertedundue influence over [Florence] and substituted her will for [Florence's] in the distribution of