Rather, A Non-Party’s Withdrawal Motivated The Project’s Demise, Not Plaintiff’s CEQA Action.
We many times have posted on the fact that there are very distinct elements to be satisfied under California’s private attorney general statute, CCP § 1021.5, including other requirements where a “catalyst theory” is being pursued. The next case, AG Land Trust v. Marina Coast Water District, Case No. H043902 (6th Dist. Oct. 15, 2018) (unpublished), illustrates how causation principles do indeed dominate analysis under the “catalyst theory.”
There, the trial judge awarded plaintiff more than $1.2 million in CCP § 1021.5 fee recovery based on the defense abandonment of a desalination project in a CEQA action. The reversal happened because the real cause of the defense abandonment was the withdrawal of a non-party to the project, so that the plaintiff’s lawsuit did not motivate what really occurred here. That was hard to digest by plaintiff, but meant that the more than $1.2 million fee recovery went POOF! on appeal.