Fees Can Be Claimed Later On In Default Judgment Packet, With Many Local Ordinances Allowing For Fee Recovery For Nuisance Abatement Actions.
The next case, although unpublished, is one that California state court litigators should love because it answers some of those vexing nitty-gritty procedural questions that we sometimes encounter when filling out entry of default and entry of default judgment/default judgment packets.
City of Fontana v. Bani, LLC, Case Nos. E062018/E063549 (4th Dist., Div. 2 May 12, 2016) (unpublished) involved a default judgment obtained by the City of Fontana against defendants in a nuisance abatement action. Defendants made many challenges, with only a couple resulting in a reduction of a little under $4,500 from a monetary default judgment of close to $85,000. (There were prohibitory injunctions and receivership relief which also were challenged, to no avail.) However, in the process, some nice guidance was given on what type of challenges to attorney’s fees and certain routine costs survived procedural challenges on appeal in a default judgment context.
First, the defense argued that the failure to claim requested fees in the entry of default, even though made in the request for entry of default judgment, was error. Naught! The request only needs to be made in the request for entry of default judgment, which it was. That is satisfactory. (Nice discussion of Garcia v. Politis, 192 Cal.App.4th 1474, 1478-1479 (2011).)
Second, the defense contended that City’s failure to specify the amount of attorney’s fees in its complaint was another legal error invalidating the award of fees in the default judgment proceeding. Another naught! A default judgment can properly include fees recoverable as costs even if the complaint did not specify a dollar amount—however, it would be good idea to include a fee request in a pleader’s omnibus prayer for costs and fees, as applicable, in the complaint. (Simke, Chodos, Silberfeld & Anteau, Inc. v. Athans, 195 Cal.App.4th 1275, 1285, 1290-1291, 1293 (2011); Horton v. Horton, 18 Cal.2d 579, 583 (1941).)
Third, the appellate court affirmed that attorney’s fees and costs, including even administrative expenses, may indeed be recoverable under pertinent local municipal fee entitlement statutes, in this case Fontana Municipal Code provisions. (Note: administrative fees were not recoverable one municipal provision, but another did so authorize—so read them carefully.)
However, certain copying and other clerical expenses were not compensable.