Convent Dispute Nets Katy Perry, Church $10M in Punitives

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A Los Angeles jury on Monday awarded the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Katy Perry $10 million in punitive damages after finding a local developer interfered in a real estate deal between the church and the pop star.

Last month, the same jury found developer Dana Hollister acted with fraud, malice or oppression after a 10-day trial over the sale of a former convent in the Los Feliz neighborhood, which the church was in the process of selling to Perry for $14.5 million. The jury found Hollister interfered in that sale when she recorded a grant deed for the property.

In deciding damages, the jury on Monday awarded the archdiocese and the California Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary two-thirds of the $10 million or $6.6 million. Bird Nest, the company Perry formed to purchase the former convent, received the remaining $3.3 million.

Juror Raphael Avina said the jury considered Hollister’s net worth when they decided on the $10 million. During the damages phase of the trial, attorneys for the plaintiffs presented a 2014 loan application filed by Hollister where she listed her net worth at approximately $16 million.

“We discussed what was a fair amount. We had an estimated net worth and determined a rate of growth.” Avina added the evidence in the case indicated a stronger case for the plaintiffs.

In 2015, Perry’s company entered into a deal with Archbishop Jose Gomez to purchase the property for $14.5 million, often described as a villa and mansion with breathtaking views of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Eric Rowen, attorney for Bird Nest, said Perry still wants to purchase the property from the church despite all the legal problems.

“She intends to live there,” Rowen said Monday afternoon outside the courtroom. Perry’s desire to keep the former convent as a residence was an important factor for Gomez in accepting her deal.

Hollister had wanted to convert the property at Waverly Drive into a hotel, which she has done with other properties in Los Angeles, including another former convent in the nearby Silver Lake neighborhood. Hollister entered into a contract agreement with two nuns, Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman, and a lawyer who said she represented the institute of their order.

But Hollister was contacted by representatives from the archdiocese, who said the sisters did not have authorization to sell the property and her deal with them required the approval of the archbishop and the Vatican.

Despite that warning, Hollister recorded a deed title in June 2015 with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office. That clouded title on the property and locked the parties in court for the last 2 ½ years to clear up who legally owned the property, the archdiocese’s attorney Kirk Dillman, with McKool Smith, argued.

The jury awarded the Los Angeles Archdiocese $3.4 million and Bird Nest $1.5 million in legal fees on Nov. 17, when they found Hollister had acted out of fraud, malice or oppression.

During the first phase of the jury trial Hollister’s attorney, Michael Geibelson with Robins Kaplan said Hollister believed the two nuns could legally sell the Waverly Drive property.

Geibelson asked Hollister how she knew the signatures on a document were those of the nuns, even though she was not in the same room when they were signed.

“They were nuns, I didn’t question,” Hollister testified.

Avina, the juror, said he tries to see the best in people.

“You see two sides to a story and both think they’re correct,” he said. “But it kind of seemed like fraud from Hollister’s side based on the evidence we were presented.”

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