Homeowner Had to Pay Fees of About $35,000, But Appellate Court Had To Face An Olio Of Civil Code Section 1354 “Prevailing Party” And Stay/Preliminary Injunction Bond Issues.
Okay, here we go with another homeowners association (HOA)-homeowners fight that, ta! da!, produced an ultimate fight over who was owed attorney’s fees and costs. HOA won this one, both in the trial and appellate courts.
HOA had homeowner’s decks replaced after water was leaking into another homeowner’s domain. However, homeowner would not provide access or remove items so that subsequent warranty repairs could be made, prompting HOA to seek and obtain a preliminary injunction to gain access to the deck and have homeowner remove items so repairs could be completed. HOA posted a $30,000 preliminary injunction bond. After the repairs were made, HOA dismissed its complaint without prejudice. HOA sought fees/costs of $24,017, homeowner sought fees/costs of $36,528.50, and homeowner sought to enforce liability against the preliminary injunction bond. The lower court awarded HOA its sought-after fees, awarded HOA additional fees of $10,621 for having to pursue a couple of additional motions, and stayed homeowner’s attempt to enforce liability on the preliminary injunction bond until the appellate court decided who indeed prevailed.
HOA got the better of it on appeal in Highlands Owners Assn. v. Cobler, Case No. B216797 (2d Dist., Div. 4 Apr. 17, 2012) (unpublished), in a very analytical 3-0 decision authored by Presiding Justice Epstein.
HOA, indeed, was the prevailing party under Civil Code section 1354, the CC&R enforcement fee-shifting provision, with the determination being made on a practical level. The appellate court rebuffed the suggestion that the prevailing party test for general routine costs statute should also apply to fee determinations under section 1354, undertaking an examination of the legislative history on costs statute changes to show that it should not. The practical analysis of who achieved litigation objectives is the governing standard under section 1354. (Salehi v. Surfside III Condominium Owners Assn., 200 Cal.App.4th 1146, 1153 (2011).)
Whether or not HOA failed to participate in the ADR process mentioned in Civil Code section 1369.580 was irrelevant to the “prevailing party” determination, although it might impact the amount of any fee award.
The appeal of the fee/costs award under section 1354 did not prevent the trial court from awarding additional fees and costs incurred by the HOA on other motions, because they were akin to future damages. (Warsaw v. Chicago Metallic Ceilings, Inc., 35 Cal.3d 564, 574 (1984).)