Labor Code Section 218.5 Justified Fee Recovery.
In Hines v. Premier Power Renewable Energy, Inc., Case No. G04912 (4th Dist., Div. 3 Nov. 25, 2014) (unpublished), employee won a compensatory verdict of $58,977.03 against a solar panel employer for failure to pay certain commissions/overages owed under the employment relationship. Following the verdict, the lower court awarded plaintiff $9,267.64 in costs and $122,378 in attorney’s fees under Labor Code section 218.5. The defense appeal did not change the result.
Solar heating panels, San Francisco. Robert Canfield, creator. 2001. Library of Congress.
Section 218.5 provides in relevant part: “In any action brought for the nonpayment of wages, fringe benefits, or health and welfare or pension fund contributions, the court shall award reasonable attorney fees and costs to the prevailing party if any party to the action requests attorney fees and costs upon the initiation of the action. . . . This section shall not apply to an action brought by the Labor Commissioner. This section shall not apply to a surety issuing a bond pursuant to . . . the Business and Professions Code or to an action to enforce a mechanics lien brought under . . . the Civil
Code. [¶] . . . This section does not apply to any cause of action for which attorney fees are recoverable under [s]ection 1194 [actions to recover minimum wage and overtime compensation].”
The appellate court decided this case was about nonpayment of wages/benefits, with section 218.5 applying to all contract claims based thereon (only excluding certain specified claims, including some of plaintiff’s tort claims). Because plaintiff also prayed for fee recovery in his Complaint, this satisfied the “request” requirement. The costs award was proper, because the defense did not bear its burden to show that they were unreasonable or unnecessary based on opposition proof submitted by the prevailing plaintiff.
Presiding Justice O’Leary authored the opinion on behalf of a 3-0 panel.