Appellate Court Reversed Award of Accountant Fees Against One Party, Deciding Interest Apportionment of Expenses Was Proper.
In the equity arena, partition is the procedure for segregating or terminating common interests in the same parcel of property, as where property is held jointly or by tenants in common. California has a statutory scheme governing partition, set forth at Code of Civil Procedure section 872.010 et seq. As one would expect, there is authorization to pay attorney’s fees under certain circumstances. Section 874.010 defines partition costs to include reasonable attorney’s fees incurred for the common benefit, as well as other common benefit disbursements. In turn, section 874.040 provides that the court shall apportion the costs of partition among the parties in proportion to their interests, but retains discretion to make an equitable apportionment on other bases. However, the ordinary rule is to apportion fees and costs determined to be for the common benefit. (Finney v. Gomez, 111 Cal.App.4th 527, 546 (2003).)
A partition fee award was affirmed but a partition cost award was modified in Guttierrez v. Guttierrez, Case No. C065165 (3d Dist. Mar. 22, 2011) (unpublished). There, a fee award for common benefit work was apportioned by property percentages, so that was just fine. However, the trial court allocated all of an accountant’s common benefit work to one party, with the appellate court modifying the award by apportioning the expenses according to each party’s interest--no evidence supported a departure from the ordinary rule.