Landlord/Tenant: Sevier v. Ghannoura, Case No. B259542 (2d Dist., Div. 4 Mar. 22, 2016) (Unpublished).
Tenant won compensatory damages of $21,865 against landlords for illegal entry into common areas of a rental apartment without proper notice. There was a fees clause, requiring mediation as a condition precedent, but tenant satisfied that by requesting it four times and having landlord never agreeing to participate in mediation. Tenant then requested $69,875 in fees based on a lease fees clause, with the trial judge awarding $56,875. Landlords only argued the amount was “unfair,” far short of what was needed to surmount the abuse of discretion review standard applicable to the amount of a fee award.
Family Law: Evilsizor v. Sweeney, Case No. A143054 (1st Dist., Div. 2 Mar. 22, 2016) (Unpublished).
Ex-wife and her parents were hit with an adverse “needs-based” fees award to ex-husband of $125,000, $25,000 payable by parents and $100,000 by ex-wife. The record showed that ex-wife, an attorney, was paid substantial legal fees for work performed on behalf of her parents and that there largesse had helped fund her dissolution fight in some ways. The fee awards were found to be no abuse of discretion, especially given that parents’ funds counted on the “needs-based” analysis. (Marriage of Smith, 242 Cal.App.4th 529, 535 (2015).)
Appeal/Class Action: Ocegueda v. American Brother Corp., Inc., Case No. H041380 (6th Dist. Mar. 22, 2016) (Unpublished).
Plaintiffs challenged the amount of appellate fees claimed by three sets of defense attorneys on an unsuccessful appeal of a sanctions order, with the appellate court earlier granting a motion to dismiss the appeal and ordering payment of sanctions. The defense sought $31,435.50 in fees, challenged as excessive by plaintiffs and with the trial judge initially agreeing unless time records were submitted for in camera review. After submission of more detail, the trial judge granted the request after observing that the defense excluded an additional 48 hours of work. The problem here for plaintiffs was the failure to object and provide an adequate record. No objections to the in camera review or tentative rulings were made at the trial level, magnified by the lack of a reporter’s transcript to show what happened at oral hearings on the fee requests. This made it easy to deem the due process argument—plaintiffs did not have an opportunity to review the in camera time records—as being waived and not reviewable based on an inadequate record.