Appellant Argued Small Claims Special Statutory Prohibition Applied, But It Did Not.
We once in a long while get a case involving a small claims matter, which the next case happens to be. These matters, in the fees and costs area, usually focus on whether general CCP routine costs provisions prevail or whether special small claims prohibitions apply.
Geng v. Zhu, Case No. B280207 (2d Dist., Div. 8 May 29, 2018) (unpublished) is a situation where two parties (Zhu and Yan, respondents in the appeal) sued Geng (appellant in the appeal) in the small claims court, with Ms. Geng filing an unlimited jurisdiction civil case which moved the small claims case to the general jurisdiction court. After the small claims case was transferred, Ms. Geng voluntarily dismissed her general jurisdiction case against Zhu and Yan. After the dismissal was filed, Zhu and Yan sought $950 in filing/motion fees, $60 for service of process, and $15,606.25 in attorney’s fees. Ms. Geng moved to tax costs and opposed the fees motion. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Zhu and Yan for the first two items, totaling $1,010. Ms. Geng appealed.
The question posed by the appeal was whether the general CCP § 1032 general costs statute controlled or whether CCP § 116.390(e) (a provision addressing allocation of costs when a small claims case is transferred to another court) controlled. Section 116.390(e) provides that if a small claims case is transferred, and the unlimited jurisdiction court “rules against the plaintiff in the action filed in that court, the court may award to the defendant in that action the costs incurred as a consequence of the transfer, including attorney’s fees and filing fees.”
The trial court’s award was proper, because defendants prevailed in the general jurisdiction case based on the dismissal by Ms. Geng. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1032(a)(4), (b).) The general jurisdiction did not issue any ruling in the transferred small claims action such that the more particular section 116.390(e) did not apply.