Unlawful Detainer Judgment Was Res Judicata, and Fees Clause Was Broad.
Howard v. Champion, Case No. B234337 (2d Dist., Div. 4 Aug. 15, 2012) (unpublished) is a situation where landlords won a prior unlawful detainer judgment for possession and back rent against tenant, winning a summary judgment where the U.D. judge indicated there was insufficient proof to justify a decrease in rent or relief from tenant’s rental obligations.
Not quite content, tenant filed a new action against landlord alleging various contractual, tort, and unfair business practices claims. Several of these claims were jettisoned on demurrer, and a jury decided against tenant on a fraud and an unfair business practices claim. The lower court then awarded attorney’s fees to winning landlords in the second action.
Merits and fee judgment affirmed.
The unlawful detainer judgment was res judicata on the unfair business practices claim, the only one appealed on the merits by tenant.
As far as the fee award was concerned, Civil Code section 1717 is reciprocal and entitlement depends on the breadth of the fees clause. Here, the clause covered “any action in court,” sufficiently broad to encompass landlords’ fees for defeating the tort/unfair business practices claims. (Gil v. Mansano, 121 Cal.App.4th 739, 743 (2004).)