November 17, 2009
The Court follows the rule in Bratcher v. Buckner, even though Bratcher involved a judgment lien and two deeds of trust and this case involves three deeds of trust. The situation is that A, B & C have liens on the subject property, and A then subordinates his lien to C's lien. The problem with this is that C appears to be senior to A, which is senior to B, which is senior to C, so that each lien is senior and junior to one of the other liens.
The Court held that the lien holders have the following priority: (1) C is paid up to the amount of A's lien, (2) if the amount of A's lien exceeds C's lien, A is paid the amount of his lien, less the amount paid so far to C, (3) B is then paid in full, (4) C is then paid any balance still owing to C, (5) A is then paid any balance still owing to A.
This is entirely fair because A loses priority as to the amount of C's lien, which conforms to the intent of the subordination agreement. B remains in the same position he would be in without the subordination agreement since his lien remains junior only to the amount of A's lien. C steps into A's shoes only up to the amount of A's lien.
NOTE: The odd thing about circuity of priority cases is that they result in surplus proceeds after a foreclosure sale being paid to senior lienholders. Normally, only junior lienholders and the foreclosed out owner are entitled to share in surplus proceeds, and the purchaser takes title subject to the senior liens.
Cal.App. 1st Dist. (A122626) 10/22/09