Action Sounded In Both Contract And Tort, So Recovery Allowed.
In GoTek Energy, Inc. v. SoCal IP Law Group, LLP, Case No. B266681 (2d Dist., Div. 6 Oct. 12, 2016) (published), an initial law firm providing patent application work for a client beat back a legal malpractice action based on the governing statute of limitations and recovered $140,000 in attorney’s fees against the client based on a broad fees clause in the retention agreement allowing fee recovery for “any dispute between us relating to the [retention agreement]” to a prevailing party like the law firm.
The 2/6 DCA, in a 3-0 opinion authored by Acting Presiding Justice Yegan, affirmed the merits and fee decisions.
In this instance, the broad language “any dispute” allowed for recovery of fees whether the litigation sounded in tort or contract—with the parties being able to determine how fee entitlement is determined under their mutual bargained-for contract. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1021.) The result did not change even under Civil Code section 1717 analysis (providing only for recovery of actions “on the contract”), because a legal malpractice action sounds both in tort and contract. (Neel v. Magana, Olney, Levy, Cathcart & Gelfand, 6 Cal.3d 176, 180-181 (1971).)