Amount of Awarded Fees Was Reasonable, Given Trial Judge Only Granted 62% Of Requested Fees.
In Afra v. Artech Properties, LLC, Case No. B250073 (2d Dist., Div. 7 Jan. 5, 2014) (unpublished), Artech Properties and another party defensed a fraud lawsuit, replete with related equitable claims, as against a party seeking to recover on a $1 million note found to be void for lack of consideration because it was never funded. The note and related deed of trust had fees clauses, with the lower court awarding $120,000 to Artech (out of a requested $193,565.50).
The appeal of the fee ruling was unsuccessful.
1717 entitlement was present because the “on the contract” statutory language is to be liberally construed. The claims involved judicial foreclosure of a security interest and equitable estoppel, all based on the theory that the loan documents were void. Section 1717 allows recovery of fees to the prevailing party even where the contract is found to be inapplicable, invalid, unenforceable or nonexistent. (Hsu v. Abbara, 9 Cal.4th 863, 870 (1995) [one of our Leading Cases].)
The amount of fees was no abuse of discretion; after all, the trial judge only granted roughly 62% of the fees actually billed to Artech, implicitly reducing the billed hours for duplicative/unnecessary work or work attributable to issues not entwined with contract issues.