Although Fees Are Mandatory, Prevailing Party Determination Is Threshold Call For Trial Judge Under Prompt Payment Statutes.
James L. Harris Printing & Decorating, Inc. v. West Bay Builders, Inc., Case No. C072169 (3d Dist. Aug. 27, 2015) (published) was dealing with fee-shifting provisions in some prompt payment statutes, specifically, Business and Professions Code section 7108.5 and Public Contract Code sections 7107 and 10262.5. What happened is that neither side prevailed, given that one of the defendants also brought a cross-complaint in a construction payment dispute. The trial court denied the defense motion for fees under the prompt payment statutes.
The Third District affirmed, determining that the lower court indeed had discretion to determine if any side was the prevailing party for purposes of prompt payment statute fee-shifting. In this particular case, the adversaries did not obtain what each really wanted, so the “no one prevailed” call by the court below was sustained.