Gotta Look At The Big Picture, Appellate Court Reminds Us On Prevailing Party Status.
Marina Pacifica Homeowners Assn. v. Southern California Financial Corp., Case No. B276719 (2d Dist., Div. 8 Feb. 5, 2018) (published) was hard fought litigation over the validity and timing of an assignment/transfer fee. In the end, the trial court—after bifurcating the trial into several phases—decided the transfer fee could not be collected after December 31, 2008, the fees imposed before that date should have been calculated on 4% of fair market value rather than 10%, and the escalation in the fee for a certain period of time did not fail for lack of consideration.
So, what next happened? I assume you guessed it—both sides filed dueling motions for attorney’s fees and costs as the prevailing party. The lower court determined no one prevailed, denying all of the requests. This prompted appeals by both sides.
Nothing changed, in a published opinion issued by the 2/8 DCA.
The real conclusion in this case was one of pragmatism. Mixed results occurred for both sides in the litigation below, with respect to both fees and costs. Plaintiff sought to rid the homeowners of the burden of an assignment fee in its entirety, but this did not occur. However, defendant did not gain the 10% FMV position either. (Plaintiff sought to pay nothing, but defendant established a right to recovery $39 million rather than the $97 million it sought to charge.) Not necessarily a tie, but no clear winner.
From a substantive perspective, the 2/8 DCA panel rejected the notion that settlement communications constituted “pleadings, trial briefs, opening statements, and similar sources” which could be used to compare the relief awarded on the contract with the parties’ demands/litigation objectives. Obviously, the settlement “privilege” in Evidence Code section 1152 figured heavily in this determination.