Case Highlights How Fee Recoveries Can Be Substantial in Fairly Standard Real Estate Cases.
Mehrabian v. Meruelo Maddux Properties-Ponte Vista, LLC, Case No. B219623 (2d Dist., Div. 1 May 19, 2011) (unpublished) is not so remarkable for its conclusion, but highlights the high costs of fairly standard real estate litigation and demonstrates the difficulty for a nonprevailing party to defeat the abuse of discretion standard when the only challenge is to the reasonableness of a fee award.
In a purchase and lease dispute involving adjoining parcels of real estate, plaintiff/cross-defendant prevailed on both the complaint and cross-complaint. A fees clause then allowed the trial court to award plaintiff fees of $175,361.03 (out of a requested $222,943.02) on the complaint and $42,266.02 (out of a requested $169,064.08) on the cross-complaint. Defendant only appealed the fee award based on plaintiff’s win under the complaint.
The Second District, Division 1 affirmed. Defendant simply could not beat the deferential abuse of discretion standard. The trial court did reduce the complaint fee request by the exact amount delineated by defendant, with it not having to do more and with the defense not clearly demonstrating why a further haircuit was necessary. The lower court’s decision to reduce fee requests by only 10% for general inefficiencies and allow $200 hourly rates for attorneys with less than five years’ experience was not erroneous given the fee petition submissions by plaintiff.