Whistleblower Claim Alone Does Not Justify CCP § 1021.5 Fee Recovery.
In Hager v. County of Los Angeles, Case Nos. B238277/B239897 (2d Dist., Div. 3 Aug. 5, 2014) (unpublished) (opn. after rehearing), plaintiff whistleblower obtained $2 million in economic damages and $2.5 million in non-economic damages from a jury verdict. On appeal, the public safety officer kept the $2.5 million in non-economic damages but lost the $2 million in economic damages.
Officer appealed the lower court denial of his request for attorney’s fees under the private attorney general statute, CCP § 1021.5.
The fee denial was affirmed. The appellate court found distinguishable other cases where public safety officers were awarded fees to enforce public rights, finding that the whistleblower action only benefited plaintiff alone. Simply bringing a Labor Code section 1102.5(b) whistleblower action, alone, does not justify a 1021.5 fee award unless the other private attorney general criteria are met. (Satrap v. PG&E, 42 Cal.App.4th 72, 81-82 (1996).)