Facts Were Interesting, But Fee Award Was Not Shocking In Nature.
Landlord (Mr. Timothy Rack Rent) telling tenant leasehold (a country attorney) that rent is being raised. Circa 1750-1795. John Spilsbury, engraver. Library of Congress.
We will have to say that after blogging for close to nine years, the attorney's fees decisions frequently mirror the angst parties have in litigating the merits. Put another way, the fee dispute is a "carryover" of the angst from the merits decision, although in many occasions the merits victor recovers a substantial portion of requested attorney's fees and costs. The next decision well illustrates our general observation over the years.
In Carlson v. Corona, Case Nos. B264709/B267343 (2d Dist., Div. 4 Feb. 24, 2017) (unpublished), a girlfriend—who was the executor of her deceased boyfriend's estate—sold an apartment building of which she was a tenant and agreed to move from one apartment unit to a smaller unit as part of the overall sale. However, the new owner/new landlord did not allow her time to fetch all of her possessions from the former apartment unit given that the sale escrow was short in nature. Given this possession issue, girlfriend, as plaintiff, sued new owner/landlord, as defendant, under various landlord-tenant statutory provisions relating to the personal possession issues. Plaintiff won, recovering $78,753 in damages. The trial court then awarded her $91,344.50 (the full request) in attorney's fees under fee-shifting provisions contained in Civil Code sections 789.3 [fees for removing residential tenant's personal property without permission or without following statutory procedures] and 1965 [failure to return residential tenant's personal property upon written request].
Landlord's principal challenge was that the fee award was excessive, eight times more than the damages award. The problem here was that the correct damages award was $78,753, with the eventual $91,344.50 fee award not shocking when the proper compensatory number was used. Fee recovery affirmed.