Courts Focused On Plain Meaning Of Fee Clauses, Primarily.
Lawson v. Cal Western Reconveyance Corp., Case No. A142956 (1st Dist., Div. 4 Nov. 20, 2017) (Unpublished).
Here, after two banks prevailed in a nonjudicial foreclosure challenge by borrowers, the trial judge awarded both $ 137,150 in attorney’s fees under note and trust deed fee clauses. That award was sustained on appeal. After observing that Civil Code section 1717 only makes non-mutual clauses mutual but does not otherwise impact the interpretation of the fee clauses themselves, it found that judicial admissions, the agency relationship between one bank and the other, and breadth of the trust deed language all supported a conclusion that the fee award was proper. Also, a $250 hourly rate was found reasonable for the Marin County area and San Francisco Bay area generally.
DIII Properties, LLC v. EDF Renewable Energy, Inc., Case No. A149217 (1st Dist., Div. 5 Nov. 20, 2017) (Unpublished).
In this second one, a prevailing party in an easement dispute (in a multi-count complaint including a claim for declaratory relief), was awarded $158,616.90 in fees based on a fees clause in an easement agreement clarified by a subsequent letter agreement. Although arguing recovery was only for trespass (a tort not within the reach of section 1717), the appellate court—as did the trial judge—disagreed based on the scope of the pleadings, especially the declaratory relief claim which did sound “on the contract.”