Reason Was Matter Remanded To Determine If Defense Met Burden To SLAPP For Several Causes of Action.
The SLAPP statute certainly has generated a lot of jurisprudence since its enactment. The defense winning a SLAPP motion gets mandatory reasonable, causally-related fees, while a plaintiff subject to a frivolous SLAPP motion can get discretionary reasonable fees.
In Coyote Springs Guest Ranch v. Castaldi, Case Nos. F065144/F065570 (5th Dist. Dec. 19, 2014) (unpublished), a trial judge determined that a defense SLAPP motion was frivolous as to all causes of action, entering a $70,575 fee award in favor of plaintiffs and against defendants and their counsel, jointly and severally.
The fee award went POOF! because the appellate court determined that defense might have been correct on the SLAPP merits on some causes of action such that the “fee fixing” had to be redone after remand determinations by the trial judge.
BLOG NOTE—Case law clearly establishes that a plaintiff’s counsel cannot be subject to mandatory SLAPP fee recovery, only plaintiff can be exposed. (Moore v. Kaufman, 189 Cal.App.4th 604 (2010).) However, can a defense counsel as well as the defense be subject to fee exposure for bringing a frivolous SLAPP motion? We know of no published case so holding, but it is tethered to former CCP § 128.5 sanctions (allowable against a party and/or counsel) and one commentator has indicated that fee exposure would also extend to counsel. (See Denison, “SLAPP Happy,” L.A. LAWYER, June 2011.) However, for those of you wanting creative arguments to argue otherwise, see some reasoning in Foster v. Warner, a June 19, 2008 unpublished decision from the First District, discussed in our June 19, 2008 post.