Santisas Drove the Result in this One.
In Berry v. Berry, Case No. D062914 (4th Dist., Div. 1 Mar. 18, 2014) (unpublished), one co-trustee/aligned other parties were not happy when a probate court denied their request for attorney’s fees under a settlement agreement fees clause after another co-trustee (a brother, of course) voluntarily dismissed a petition to confirm a settlement. Earlier, that same co-trustee unsuccessfully brought a CCP § 664.6 motion to confirm the settlement, a motion denied on procedural grounds. Later, the 664.6 losing co-trustee voluntarily dismissed his petition to confirm the settlement agreement. That motivated the other co-trustee to move for Civil Code section 1717 fees, a request that was denied.
The appellate court affirmed. Based on the voluntary dismissal, no 1717 fees were justified under Santisas v. Goodin, 17 Cal.4th 599, 617 (1998) [one of our Leading Cases], pure and simple. However, co-trustee trying to oppose the settlement agreement said, so to speak as follows, “c’mon, the court denied the 664.6 motion so why don’t I prevail?” Answer from the reviewing court was that a prior 664.6 ruling doesn’t mean the settlement is unenforceable or that other avenues might not lead to its enforcement of the settlement. Given the posture of the 664.6 ruling, which did not retard a further ruling on the petition to enforce settlement, the voluntary dismissal—which was with prejudice—did end the litigation and was not made at a time where any other result was inevitable. (Marina Glencoe, L.P. v. Neve Sentimental Film AG, 168 Cal.App.4th 874, 878 (2008).)