$3,000 In Fee Awarded to Prevailing Plaintiff; HOA’s Insurance Is Paying Candidate’s Legal Bills.
As reported in an August 17, 2014 article in The Orange County Register, the Quail Hill HOA is in quite a struggle with the Barracudas, one of 20 teams in the Irvine Swim League using the neighborhood swimming pool for practices and meets. Evan Chemers, a resident of Quail Hill and Irvine City Council candidate, became an HOA member and helped enact a bylaw preventing any person affiliated with the Barracudas from being on the HOA board—although the bylaw was later rescinded.
Great barracuda close-up. Author: Aquaimages. Wikimedia. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
When Mr. Chemers was HOA president, he sent a letter to Quail Hill’s former property management company accusing it of financial wrongdoing, being friendly with a pro-swim team HOA member, and contributing money to the Barracudas. The property management company sued Mr. Chemers for defamation, who tried to squelch the suit early through a SLAPP motion, which he lost.
The lower court awarded the prevailing plaintiff $3,000 in attorney’s fees. Quite remarkable given that prevailing plaintiffs only obtain SLAPP fee recovery if the motion is deemed frivolous or solely intended to cause unnecessary delay. (We are guessing this result given that the exact nature of the ruling was not reported.)
For those of you who are interested, the case is Keystone Pacific Property Mgt. v. Chemers, Orange County Superior Court Case No. 30-2013-00680161-CU-DF-CJC (assigned to Judge Sheila Fell). The Register article reports that the HOA’s insurance company is paying Mr. Clemer’s legal expenses in the action, and the matter is scheduled for a 2015 trial.