Justice Bedsworth, Always Colorful, Pens this Colorful Homeowner-HOA Decision Over No Less Than Tree Trimming to Preserve Ocean Views.
Okay, in Orange County, litigators of homeowner-HOA disputes see a lot of disputes involving homeowners who do not want to trim trees and HOAs which want them trimmed to preserve ocean views for other residents. Well, Monarch Bay Terrace Property Owners Assn. v. Johnson, Case No. G043518 (4th Dist., Div. 3 Oct. 19, 2011) (unpublished) involved such a dispute where HOA obtained a primary $55,034 attorney’s fees award for enforcing a settlement earlier reached between a homeowner in a tree/ocean view dispute. Homeowner appealed, arguing that HOA did not prevail, but Justice Bedsworth--writing colorfully for a 3-0 panel--saw things otherwise. (How about this for a start: “This is a case about a tree--a pretty litigious tree it seems, for this is not its first time in court.” We know that the tree did not sue, although former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas did indicate in an environmental decision of note that trees should have standing. Justice Bedsworth also went on to talk about Joyce Kilmer’s poem on trees which began with the line “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree,” but did distinguish it in the pending controversy because “as far as we know, [appellant] offered no poetic comparisons between the aesthetic values of trees and oceans.”)
The affirmance of the appeal really revolved around the fact that HOA ultimately prevailed so, as Justice Bedsworth said, “one fight, one victor--and to the victor went the spoils.” The main challenge was that the lower court initially had denied HOA’s request for fees at an earlier juncture “without prejudice.” However, the appellate court found that this did not mean that HOA might not ultimately win later (as it did) in light of subsequent proceedings, given that the settlement did allow for such additional fees. Fee award affirmed.