Lease Agreement At Issue Because Lease Term Had Expired; And, In Any Event, Ejectment Was Tort Claim Not Encompassed Within Narrower Fees Clause.
Compton Commercial Development Renaissance Plaza v. Taco Bell Corp., Case No. B283393 (2d Dist., Div. 4 Aug. 1, 2018) (unpublished) was a case where landlord sued former tenant/assignee Taco Bell for breach of contract, fraud, and common law ejectment under a cross-complaint after Taco Bell assigned the lease to another (allegedly not doing so properly). The lease agreement had a narrow attorney’s fees clause, as relevant to the dispute at issue, applying to suits “to enforce” lease provisions or “for a declaration of rights hereunder.” Taco Bell obtained a demurrer on contract and fraud claims, for which fees were awarded to the tune of $47,700. However, the trial judge refused to award other fees incurred in obtaining summary judgment of the ejectment cross-claim. Taco Bell appealed the refusal to award fees on the ejectment cross-claim work.
The landlord had the better side of this argument.
The fees clause in the lease had narrow language, unlike more encompassing “arising out of” or “with respect to subject matter” language, which did not apply to tort claims. The ejectment claim did not qualify for fee recovery for two reasons: (1) the lease agreement was not in dispute because Taco Bell was not in possession (the lease term had undisputedly expired already) and it disclaimed any residual interest under the lease; and (2) the ejectment cross-claim sounded in tort, such that it was not within the ambit of the fees clause.