Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department E
Not for Publication – Rule 28, Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure
Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause Nos. CV2010-011033 & CV2011-008050 (Consolidated) The Honorable Michael J. Herrod, Judge
Abel Gurrola Gonzalez Phoenix In Propria Persona Plaintiff/Counterdefendant/ Appellant
Herman R. Quiroga Phoenix Attorney for Defendant/Counterclaimant/ Appellee
MARGARET H. DOWNIE, Judge
¶1 Abel Gurrola Gonzalez ("Abel") appeals from a verdict issued by the superior court after a bench trial. The court found that Abel and his brother, Francisco Gurrola
("Francisco"), had an agreement regarding two parcels of real property whereby each would take one property and Francisco would make an equalization payment of $50, 000. For the following reasons, we affirm.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
¶2 This dispute relates to property at 12011 West Southern, purchased jointly by Abel and Francisco, and property at 12708 West Southern, purchased in Abel's name. Abel sued Francisco, seeking to quiet title to the 12708 property in himself. According to Abel, Francisco forged his signature on a warranty deed transferring the 12708 property and recorded that deed in September 2009. Abel contended he learned of the transfer in January 2010 and demanded Francisco return title to his name, but Francisco refused.
¶3 Francisco admitted recording the warranty deed but denied forging Abel's signature on it. In a counterclaim, Francisco alleged that he and Abel each contributed substantial sums to the purchase and maintenance of the 12011 property, as well as to the purchase of the 12708 property, with the intent that both properties be owned jointly, and that the only reason the 12708 property was titled in Abel's name was because Francisco could not qualify for the lower interest rate. Francisco claimed that in September 2007, he and Abel entered into an oral agreement whereby Francisco agreed to transfer his interest in the 12011 property to Abel, and Abel agreed to transfer his interest in the 12708 property to Francisco. Francisco alleged that he transferred his interest in the 12011 property to Abel in September 2007, but Abel did not transfer the 12708 property to him. Abel went to Mexico for what was to be a two-month period, but he stayed for two years. According to Francisco, Abel eventually signed the 12708 deed in September 2009. Francisco claimed to have made monthly mortgage payments of $2, 400 to $2, 700 per month since September 2007 and improvements to the 12708 property in an amount no less than $25, 000.
¶4 The court held a two-day bench trial. Francisco testified that he and Abel bought the 12011 property together, grew alfalfa, kept cattle, and rented the property for rodeos. In 2004, they bought the 12708 property, which was originally to have been titled in both names, but they learned they would get a better interest rate if it were purchased only in Abel's name. Francisco identified a copy of a check he wrote to Abel for $40, 000 as a payment for the 12708 property.
¶5 The 12708 property had a house on it, and the brothers lived there together for three years. Francisco testified he made the payments on the 12011 property, and Abel made payments on the 12708 property. In 2007, they agreed Abel would take the 12011 property, and Francisco would take the 12708 property. They asked their siblings to perform an accounting, which concluded that Francisco owed Abel $17, 733 in order for the brothers to be even. Francisco testified that he ultimately agreed to pay Abel $50, 000 in connection with the exchange.
¶6 At the end of 2007, Abel went to Mexico. Francisco testified that before Abel left, he transferred his interest in the 12011 property to Abel and paid him $7, 000 in cash, with the remainder to be paid upon Abel's return in two months. Abel did not transfer the 12708 property before he left, saying he would complete the paperwork when he returned; he did not return for two years. During that time, Francisco, who had been making payments on the 12011 property, instead began to make payments on the 12708 property; Abel had their sister make payments on the 12011 property. Francisco testified that while Abel was in Mexico, he asked him to complete the transaction, and he sent a document for Abel's signature. According to Francisco, Abel signed the deed and returned it, whereupon Francisco had the document notarized in Arizona.
¶7 Francisco called the parties' sisters, Eva and Teresa, as trial witnesses. They corroborated Francisco's version of events and testified that the brothers owned the properties jointly and later decided to each take one property, with Abel keeping 12011 and Francisco taking 12708. They further testified that the family did an accounting at Abel's request and determined that Francisco owed Abel $17, 733 as an equalization payment; the brothers reportedly both agreed to that amount. Teresa told the court that the brothers bought the properties together and that the second property was solely in Abel's name so that they could obtain a better interest rate. She further testified that when Abel went to Mexico, she talked to him about division of the properties, and Abel ...