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California Attorney Fee Awards

Litigate attorney fee awards with confidence using this comprehensive and nuanced guide, authored by recognized authority Richard M. Pearl.

“The first and last word on the subject. No one should do a motion without it.”
James C. Sturdevant, The Sturdevant Law Firm, San Francisco
“Whenever we file an application, we look to it as the easiest and most reliable starting point for the issues we need to address. I highly recommend it.”
Barry Litt, Litt, Estuar & Kitson LLP, Los Angeles

Litigate attorney fee awards with confidence using this comprehensive and nuanced guide, authored by recognized authority Richard M. Pearl.

  • Entitlement to fees under contractual provisions, equitable doctrines, and fee-shifting statutes
  • Adjustments to the lodestar and multipliers
  • Fees as damages and as sanctions
  • Fees for trial court and appellate work
  • Awards for work in administrative and arbitration proceedings
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“The first and last word on the subject. No one should do a motion without it.”
James C. Sturdevant, The Sturdevant Law Firm, San Francisco
“Whenever we file an application, we look to it as the easiest and most reliable starting point for the issues we need to address. I highly recommend it.”
Barry Litt, Litt, Estuar & Kitson LLP, Los Angeles

Litigate attorney fee awards with confidence using this comprehensive and nuanced guide, authored by recognized authority Richard M. Pearl.

  • Entitlement to fees under contractual provisions, equitable doctrines, and fee-shifting statutes
  • Adjustments to the lodestar and multipliers
  • Fees as damages and as sanctions
  • Fees for trial court and appellate work
  • Awards for work in administrative and arbitration proceedings

1

Recovery of Attorney Fees: An Overview

  • I. SCOPE OF BOOK 1.1
  • II. AMERICAN RULE: EACH PARTY BEARS OWN FEES UNLESS STATUTE OR CONTRACT PROVIDES OTHERWISE 1.2
  • III. EXCEPTIONS TO AMERICAN RULE
    • A. Statutes 1.3
    • B. Contracts 1.4
    • C. Equitable Doctrines 1.5
  • IV. ATTORNEY FEES MAY BE AWARDED AS COMPENSATION, SANCTIONS, OR DAMAGES, DEPENDING ON CIRCUMSTANCES 1.6
    • A. Attorney Fees Awarded as Compensation 1.7
      • 1. Calculation of Attorney Fees Awarded as Compensation 1.8
      • 2. Method of Obtaining Compensatory Fees 1.9
    • B. Attorney Fees Awarded as Sanctions 1.10
    • C. Attorney Fees Awarded as Damages 1.11
  • V. ATTORNEY FEE AWARDS ARISE IN MULTIPLE SETTINGS
    • A. Courts
      • 1. State or Federal 1.12
      • 2. Trial or Appellate 1.13
    • B. Administrative Agencies 1.14
    • C. Arbitration 1.15
    • D. Differences in Eligibility, Entitlement, Amount, Procedure 1.16
  • VI. ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS 1.17
    • A. Rules of Professional Conduct 1.18
    • B. Division of Fees Among Counsel 1.19
    • C. Conflicts of Interest 1.20
  • VII. TAX CONSEQUENCES
    • A. Income Tax Consequences of Fee Awards 1.21
      • 1. American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 1.22
      • 2. Commissioner v Banks 1.23
      • 3. Tax Consequences of Fees Awarded Under Other Fee-Shifting Statutes Unclear 1.24
    • B. Form: Sample Clause Relating to Taxation of Fee Award 1.25

2

Eligibility and Entitlement to Fees

  • I. INTRODUCTION 2.1
  • II. ELIGIBILITY FOR FEE AWARDS
    • A. Eligibility Depends on the Statutory Language 2.2
      • 1. Claim-Filing Requirements 2.3
      • 2. Pleading Requirements 2.4
    • B. Jurisdictional Requirements 2.5
    • C. Fee-Shifting Statutes Generally Apply to All "Pending" Cases
      • 1. California Courts 2.6
      • 2. Federal Courts 2.7
    • D. Eligibility When Merits of Fee-Shifting Claim Not Decided 2.8
    • E. Eligibility When Multiple Fee-Shifting Statutes Apply 2.9
    • F. Does the Fee-Shifting Statute Apply in the Forum?
      • 1. State Fee-Shifting Statutes in Federal Courts
        • a. Federal Courts Can Apply State Fee-Shifting Statutes 2.10
        • b. Advantages of Obtaining Fees in Federal Court Under State Law 2.11
      • 2. Federal Fee-Shifting Statutes in State Courts 2.12
        • a. Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Federal Fee Statutes in State Court 2.13
        • b. Federal Claim Need Not Be Decided 2.14
        • c. Federal Fee-Shifting Statute Need Not Be Pleaded 2.15
        • d. Fees May Be Claimed Under Both State and Federal Law 2.16
      • 3. Trial or Appellate Court 2.17
      • 4. Arbitration 2.18
      • 5. Administrative Proceedings 2.19
    • G. Is Fee Claimant Eligible for Attorney Fees?
      • 1. In Pro Per Attorneys
        • a. California Law 2.20
        • b. Federal Law 2.21
      • 2. In Pro Per Nonattorneys 2.22
      • 3. Nonprofit Law Firms and Pro Bono Attorneys 2.23
      • 4. Fees Paid by Others 2.24
      • 5. In-House Attorneys 2.25
      • 6. Government Attorneys 2.26
      • 7. Out-of-State Attorneys 2.27
      • 8. Intervenors 2.28
      • 9. Amicus Curiae 2.29
      • 10. Class Action Objectors 2.30
    • H. Who the Fee Belongs to 2.31
      • 1. California Law: Court-Awarded Attorney Fees Belong to Attorney 2.32
      • 2. Federal Law: Court-Awarded Attorney Fees Belong to Party 2.33
    • I. Eligibility for Fee Award Unaffected by Irregularities in Representation Arrangements 2.34
  • III. LIABILITY FOR FEE AWARDS 2.35
    • A. Immunity 2.36
    • B. Parties Against Whom No Relief Obtained 2.37
    • C. Real Parties in Interest 2.38
    • D. Intervenors 2.39
    • E. Amicus Curiae 2.40
    • F. Nonparties 2.41
    • G. Apportionment Among Multiple Unsuccessful Parties
      • 1. California Law 2.42
      • 2. Federal Law 2.43
  • IV. ENTITLEMENT TO FEE AWARDS
    • A. Must Be "Prevailing" or "Successful" Party
      • 1. Prevailing Party Concept Applies to Most Fee-Shifting Statutes and Theories 2.44
      • 2. "Prevailing Party" Defined 2.45
      • 3. Comparing California and Federal Law 2.46
      • 4. Prevailing Party for Purposes of Entitlement to Statutory Costs May Not Be Same as for Entitlement to Attorney Fee Award 2.47
        • a. Prevailing Party for Purposes of Entitlement to Appellate Costs Not Same as for Entitlement to Appellate Fees 2.48
        • b. Do Costs Statutes Have Different Standards for Prevailing Plaintiffs and Defendants? 2.49
    • B. Types of Prevailing Party Statutes
      • 1. Statutes Providing That Court "May" Award Fees to Prevailing Party 2.50
        • a. Prevailing Plaintiffs Ordinarily Entitled to Fees Unless "Special Circumstances" Would Make Award "Unjust"
          • (1) California Law 2.51
          • (2) Federal Law 2.52
          • (3) "Special Circumstances" Interpreted Very Narrowly 2.53
            • (a) Most Factors Raised as "Special Circumstances" Rejected 2.54
              • (i) Losing Party's "Good Faith" 2.55
              • (ii) Limited Success 2.56
              • (iii) Lack of Resistance to Action 2.57
              • (iv) Lack of Prelitigation Notice or Necessity for Suit 2.58
              • (v) Lack of Public Benefit 2.59
              • (vi) Prevailing Party's Self-Interest/Incentive to Sue 2.60
              • (vii) Prevailing Party's Free or Reduced Cost Representation 2.61
              • (viii) Losing Party's Limited Financial Resources 2.62
              • (ix) Effect on Losing Party's Rights 2.63
              • (x) Winning Argument Raised Belatedly or by Others 2.64
              • (xi) Litigation Protracted Unreasonably or Plaintiff's Perjury 2.65
              • (xii) Benefits Achieved by Losing Party 2.66
              • (xiii) Fee Claim Unreasonably Excessive 2.67
            • (b) Cases Finding Special Circumstances 2.68
        • b. Prevailing Defendants Entitled to Fees Only When Plaintiff's Case Is Frivolous, Groundless, or Unreasonable 2.69
          • (1) California Statutes 2.70
          • (2) Federal Statutes 2.71
          • (3) Exception: Prevailing Defendants Who Act as Private Attorneys General May Be Entitled to Fee Awards Under CCP §1021.5 2.72
          • (4) Exception: Commercial Litigation (Federal Law) 2.73
          • (5) Exception: Civil Anti-Harassment Statute 2.74
      • 2. Statutes Providing That Court "Shall" Award Fees to Prevailing Party 2.75
      • 3. Statutes Providing Different Standards for Different Parties 2.76
      • 4. Statutes That Specify Particular Parties 2.77
      • 5. When Two Different Statutes Apply 2.78
      • 6. Prevailing Party Statutes With Special Qualifications
        • a. Civil Code §1717 2.79
        • b. Code of Civil Procedure §998 2.80
        • c. Government Code §800 2.81
        • d. Code of Civil Procedure §1028.5 2.82
        • e. Other Statutes 2.83
    • C. How "Prevailing Party" Is Determined
      • 1. Introduction 2.84
      • 2. Prevailing Party Determined Pragmatically by Impact of Action, Not by Formal Judgment 2.85
      • 3. Plaintiffs Who Achieve "Some Relief" Are Prevailing Parties
        • a. California Law 2.86
        • b. Federal Law 2.87
      • 4. Results Measured by Impact of Case as a Whole: Lack of Success at Particular Stages Not Controlling 2.88
        • a. Exception: CCP §998 2.89
        • b. Exception: Interim Fees 2.90
        • c. Effect of Pending Appeal 2.91
          • (1) When Action Reversed on Merits 2.92
          • (2) Effect of Subsequent Developments at Trial Level 2.93
        • d. No Requirement That Prevailing Party Prove Merits of Fee-Shifting Claim 2.94
          • (1) California Law
            • (a) Settled Cases 2.95
            • (b) Catalyst Cases 2.96
          • (2) Federal Law 2.97
      • 5. Parties May Not Relitigate Merits 2.98
      • 6. Party May Prevail Even if Some Claims Unsuccessful
        • a. California Law 2.99
        • b. Federal Law 2.100
      • 7. Particular Dispositions
        • a. Relief Obtained on Procedural or Technical Grounds 2.101
        • b. Relief Obtained on Non-Fee-Shifting Claim 2.102
        • c. Settlements
          • (1) California Law 2.103
          • (2) Federal Law 2.104
        • d. Preliminary Injunctions
          • (1) California Law 2.105
          • (2) Federal Law 2.106
        • e. Dismissals
          • (1) Defendant Who Obtains Dismissal Is Ordinarily the Prevailing Party 2.107
          • (2) Plaintiff May Be Deemed "Successful" Party Even if Case Dismissed
            • (a) California Law 2.108
            • (b) Federal Law 2.109
          • (3) Exception: Court Finds No Prevailing Party 2.110
        • f. When Action Is "Catalyst" for Defendant's Corrective Behavior
          • (1) California Law 2.111
            • (a) Reasonable Effort to Settle 2.112
            • (b) Action Not Frivolous, Unreasonable, or Groundless 2.113
            • (c) Causation Is Issue of Fact 2.114
          • (2) Federal Law: Party May "Prevail" Only if Court Orders Relief 2.115
            • (a) Interim or Postjudgment Relief 2.116
            • (b) "Catalyst" Rule Still Available Under Many Federal Fee-Shifting Statutes 2.117

3

Fee-Shifting Statutes

  • I. INTRODUCTION 3.1
  • II. PRIVATE ATTORNEY GENERAL DOCTRINE AND CCP §1021.5
    • A. Origins of California's Private Attorney General Doctrine 3.2
    • B. Private Attorney General Doctrine Defined 3.3
    • C. Purposes of Private Attorney General Doctrine 3.4
    • D. Codification of Equitable Doctrine in CCP §1021.5 3.5
      • 1. Section 1021.5 Broadly Construed 3.6
      • 2. When Criteria Met, Fees May Be Denied Only in "Special Circumstances" 3.7
      • 3. Relevance of Federal Private Attorney General Cases 3.8
      • 4. Equitable Doctrine May Still Be Invoked 3.9
    • E. Private Attorney General and Substantial Benefit/Common Fund Doctrines Compared 3.10
    • F. Section 1021.5's Relationship to Other Fee-Shifting Statutes 3.11
    • G. Elements and Scope of CCP §1021.5
      • 1. Text of CCP §1021.5 3.12
      • 2. The "Successful Party" Requirement 3.13
        • a. Who Is Eligible for Fee Awards Under CCP §1021.5 3.14
          • (1) Parties Represented by Nonprofit Law Firms 3.15
          • (2) Parties Represented by Pro Bono Attorneys 3.16
          • (3) Public Entities 3.17
          • (4) Intervenors 3.18
          • (5) Defendants and Real Parties in Interest 3.19
          • (6) Amicus Curiae 3.20
          • (7) Class Action Objectors 3.21
          • (8) In Pro Per Attorneys and Parties Not Eligible 3.22
        • b. Who Is Liable for Fee Awards Under CCP §1021.5 3.23
          • (1) Public Entities 3.24
          • (2) Private Parties 3.25
          • (3) Intervenors and Real Parties in Interest 3.26
          • (4) Amici Curiae 3.27
          • (5) Plaintiffs 3.28
      • 3. The "Action" Requirement 3.29
        • a. Entitlement Based on Impact of Case as a Whole 3.30
        • b. Fees May Be Limited to Work on Portion of Action That Addresses Public Purpose 3.31
        • c. Applicability of Statute to Quasi-Criminal Proceedings 3.32
        • d. Code of Civil Procedure §1021.5 Applies in Federal Court Actions 3.33
        • e. Fee Awards for Work in Administrative Proceedings
          • (1) Fee Awards for Work in Administrative Proceedings That Are Not Intertwined With Court Proceedings 3.34
          • (2) Fee Awards for Administrative Proceedings That Precede Court Actions 3.35
          • (3) Fee Awards for Related Administrative Work During or After Judicial Action 3.36
      • 4. Four Criteria for Award Under CCP §1021.5 3.37
        • a. Interrelated Nature of Statutory Criteria 3.38
        • b. Enforcement of Important Right Affecting the Public Interest 3.39
          • (1) "Important Right" Interpreted Broadly 3.40
          • (2) New Law Need Not Be Established to Satisfy Important Right Requirement 3.41
          • (3) When Right Vindicated Through Appellate Opinion 3.42
          • (4) Fees May Be Awarded on Unadjudicated Claim of Important Right if Litigation Results in Enforcement of That Right 3.43
          • (5) Fees May Be Denied if Success Is Too Limited 3.44
          • (6) Types of Rights Found Important
            • (a) Rights of Constitutional Dimension 3.45
            • (b) Rights Based on State Statutes 3.46
            • (c) Rights Based on Federal Statutes 3.47
            • (d) Rights Based on Common Law 3.48
            • (e) Rights Based on Administrative Decisions 3.49
        • c. The Significant Benefit Factor 3.50
          • (1) Standards for Determining Whether a Significant Benefit Has Been Conferred on the General Public or a Large Class of Persons 3.51
            • (a) Benefits Obtained Need Not Be Actual and Concrete 3.52
            • (b) Substantial Benefit May Be Implied by Implementation of Fundamental Legislative Policy 3.53
            • (c) Significance of Benefit May Depend on Importance of Right Vindicated 3.54
            • (d) No Requirement That Action Create New Law 3.55
          • (2) Court May Look Outside Formal Record 3.56
          • (3) Evidence of Number of Persons Affected Useful, But Not Required 3.57
          • (4) Class Action Not Necessary 3.58
          • (5) Personal Versus Public Benefits 3.59
        • d. Necessity and Financial Burden of Private Enforcement Requirement 3.60
          • (1) Determining Whether Private, as Opposed to Public, Enforcement Is Necessary 3.61
            • (a) Exhaustion Not Required 3.62
            • (b) Fees May Be Awarded to Private Parties Who Litigate on Same Side as Public Entity 3.63
          • (2) Determining Whether Litigation Is Necessary in Light of Other Private Lawsuit 3.64
          • (3) Determining Whether Lawsuit Is Necessary at All 3.65
          • (4) Determining Whether Financial Burden of Private Enforcement Makes Fee Award Appropriate
            • (a) Focus of Financial Burden Requirement Is on Comparing Burden of Bringing Lawsuit to Direct Financial Interest in Case 3.66
            • (b) Method for Determining Whether Financial Burden Warrants Fee Award 3.67
            • (c) Which Direct Personal Interests Are Considered
              • (i) Pecuniary Interests 3.68
              • (ii) Nonpecuniary Interests 3.69
            • (d) How Financial Burden of Litigation Is Determined
              • (i) Financial Burden Generally Determined by Actual Cost of Litigation 3.70
              • (ii) Personal Wealth of Party Claiming Fees Is Irrelevant 3.71
              • (iii) Free or Reduced Cost Representation Is Irrelevant 3.72
              • (iv) Fee Award From Common Fund Not Required 3.73
              • (v) Court May Distinguish Between Time Spent Protecting Private Rather Than Public Interests 3.74
              • (vi) Cases Finding Party's Financial Burden Disproportionate to Personal Stake 3.75
              • (vii) Cases Finding That Burden Does Not Transcend Personal Financial Interests 3.76
              • (viii) When There Is Evidence That Case Brought by Public Interest Organization Was Litigated for Benefit of Particular Individuals 3.77
          • (5) Fee Claim by Public Entities 3.78
        • e. Determining Whether Fees Should Be Paid From Recovery, if Any 3.79
  • III. ATTORNEY FEE AWARDS UNDER OTHER FEE-SHIFTING STATUTES
    • A. State Civil Rights Statutes
      • 1. Fair Employment and Housing Act 3.80
        • a. Cases Awarding Fees to Prevailing Plaintiffs 3.81
        • b. Cases Awarding Fees to Prevailing Defendants 3.82
      • 2. Unruh Civil Rights Act and Related Statutes 3.83
    • B. Challenging Government Decision Making and Regulation
      • 1. Review of Public Assistance Determinations (Welf & I C §10962) 3.84
      • 2. Political Reform Act (Govt C §§91003, 91012) 3.85
      • 3. Brown Act (Govt C §§54950–54963) 3.86
      • 4. Public Records Act (Govt C §6259(d)) 3.87
      • 5. Information Practices Act of 1977 (CC §1798.48(b)) 3.88
      • 6. Public Utilities Code (Pub Util C §§1801–1812) 3.89
      • 7. Judicial Review Actions (Govt C §800; CCP §1094.5) 3.90
        • a. Actions to Appeal or Review "Any Administrative Proceeding" 3.91
        • b. Arbitrary and Capricious Action or Conduct 3.92
        • c. Personal Obligation to Pay Fees 3.93
      • 8. Litigation With State Regulatory Agencies (CCP §1028.5) 3.94
      • 9. Taxpayers' Actions (Rev & T C §§7156, 19717) 3.95
    • C. Labor-Related Actions
      • 1. Review of Labor Commissioner Decisions (Lab C §98.2) 3.96
      • 2. Actions to Recover Wages or Benefits (Lab C §§218.5, 1194, and Others) 3.97
      • 3. Actions to Compel Arbitration Under Collective Bargaining Agreement 3.98
      • 4. School Employee Challenges to Dismissals or Suspensions (Ed C §44944(f)) 3.99
    • D. Property-Related Actions
      • 1. Tenant Protection Statutes 3.100
      • 2. Eminent Domain Actions (CCP §§1235.140, 1268.610) 3.101
      • 3. Inverse Condemnation Actions (CCP §1036) 3.102
      • 4. Other Property-Related Statutes 3.103
    • E. Consumer Protection Statutes 3.104
    • F. City Charters and Ordinances 3.105
    • G. Personal Injury Statutes
      • 1. Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (Welf & I C §§15600–15675) 3.106
      • 2. CCP §1021.7 3.107
      • 3. Civil Actions by Felony Victims (CCP §1021.4 and Pen C §496(c) 3.108
      • 4. Anti-Harassment Actions (CCP §527.6) 3.109
    • H. SLAPP Suits (CCP §425.16(c))
      • 1. Special Motion to Strike SLAPP Lawsuits 3.110
      • 2. Anti-SLAPP Provision Broadly Construed 3.111
      • 3. Prevailing Party's Mandatory Right to Attorney Fees 3.112
      • 4. Effect of Dismissal While Anti-SLAPP Motion Is Pending 3.113
      • 5. Effect of Dismissal Before Anti-SLAPP Motion Is Made 3.114
      • 6. Prevailing Plaintiff's Right to Fee Award for Defeating Motion 3.115
      • 7. Determining Amount of Fees Under CCP §425.16
        • a. Lodestar Adjustment Method Applies 3.116
        • b. Fees Limited to Work on Anti-SLAPP Motion 3.117
        • c. Effect of Partial Success on Motion 3.118
      • 8. Applicable Procedures 3.119
      • 9. Appellate Considerations 3.120
    • I. Business Litigation Statutes
      • 1. Mutual Public Benefit Nonprofit Corporations (Corp C §8337) 3.121
      • 2. Commercial Appropriation Statute (CC §3344(a)) 3.122
      • 3. Cartwright Act (Bus & P C §16750(a)) 3.123
      • 4. Uniform Trade Secrets Act (CC §3426.4) 3.124
      • 5. Public Contract Code §7107(f) 3.125
      • 6. Payment Disputes Between Contractor and Subcontractor (CC §3260) 3.126
      • 7. False Claims Act (Govt C §12650) 3.127
      • 8. Unfair Practices Act (Bus & PC §17082) 3.127A
    • J. Interpleader Statute (CCP §386.6) 3.128
  • IV. FEDERAL FEE-SHIFTING STATUTES 3.129

4

Fee Awards Based on Contractual Fee Clauses

  • I. OVERVIEW OF ATTORNEY FEE AWARDS BASED ON CONTRACTUAL CLAUSES
    • A. Contracting Parties May Provide for Attorney Fee Awards in Actions Between Them 4.1
    • B. Civil Code §1717 Governs Fee Awards for Contract Causes of Action 4.2
    • C. Parties May Also Agree to Fee-Shifting for Noncontract Causes of Action, Which Are Not Governed by CC §1717 4.3
    • D. Contract-Based Fees Available for Services Performed in Many Forums
      • 1. Trial Courts 4.4
      • 2. Appellate Courts 4.5
      • 3. Arbitrations 4.6
      • 4. Federal Courts 4.7
    • E. Contract-Based Fees and Statutory Fees May Both Apply to Action 4.8
  • II. SCOPE OF RIGHTS UNDER CC §1717
    • A. Text of CC §1717 4.9
    • B. Purposes of CC §1717
      • 1. Protect Weaker Party's Rights 4.10
      • 2. Establish Uniform Treatment of Contractual Fee Clauses 4.11
    • C. Broad Reach of CC §1717 4.12
      • 1. Civil Code §1717 Makes Unilateral Fee Provisions Reciprocal 4.13
        • a. Reciprocity Applies to Litigation Expenses if Contract So Provides 4.14
        • b. Reciprocity Not Applicable to Noncontract Fee Claims Based on Broad Fee-Shifting Clauses 4.15
      • 2. Fee Provision Applies to Entire Contract 4.16
      • 3. CC §1717 Applies to All Parties to Contract 4.17
      • 4. CC §1717 Applies to Contracts Containing Bilateral Fee Clause 4.18
      • 5. Rights Under CC &##167;1717 May Not Be Waived 4.19
      • 6. Contract Language May Limit Right to Fees 4.20
      • 7. Courts Apply Equitable Principles to Contractual Fee Claims 4.21
      • 8. Civil Code §1717 Does Not Apply to Fee Requests Under Other Fee-Shifting Statutes 4.22
      • 9. Fees Recovered Under CC §1717 Are Offset Against Damages Opposing Party Recovers on Noncontract Claims 4.23
      • 10. Civil Code §1717 Not Applicable if Contract Subject to Preemptive Federal Law 4.24
    • D. Contract-Based Fee Awards for Noncontract Causes of Action
      • 1. Parties May Agree That Under CCP §1021, Attorney Fees Are Also Available for Noncontract Causes of Action 4.25
      • 2. Language of Fee Clause Determines Whether It Applies to Noncontract Claims 4.26
      • 3. Civil Code §1717 Inapplicable to Fee Claims Based on Noncontract Causes of Action 4.27
        • a. Reciprocity Not Required 4.28
        • b. Party May Be Entitled to Fees Even if It Did Not Prevail "on the Contract" 4.29
        • c. Party May Be Entitled to Fees Despite Voluntary Dismissal 4.30
  • III. ELIGIBILITY FOR ATTORNEY FEES UNDER CONTRACTUAL PROVISIONS 4.31
    • A. Does the Contractual Fee-Shifting Provision Apply to the Action?
      • 1. Attorney Fee Provision Usually Applies to Entire Contract and All Parties to Contract 4.32
      • 2. Multiple Contracts
        • a. When Multiple Contracts Are Involved, Fees May Be Awarded if Related Document Contains Fee-Shifting Clause 4.33
        • b. Examples of Cases Involving Multiple Contracts 4.34
      • 3. Attorney Fees May Be Available Even if Underlying Contract Held Invalid or Nonexistent 4.35
        • a. If Entire Contract Unenforceable Because of Illegality 4.36
        • b. If Contract Enforceable But Contains Some Illegal Terms 4.37
    • B. Does Contractual Fee-Shifting Provision Apply to Party?
      • 1. Party to Litigation May Not Be Signator to Contract 4.38
      • 2. Fees May Be Awarded to or Against Persons Who Were Not Signators to Contract 4.39
        • a. If Nonsignator "Stands in the Shoes" of Party to Contract 4.40
        • b. If Nonsignator Is Effectively a Party to Contract 4.41
        • c. Awards to Nonsignators
          • (1) Nonsignator Can Be "Prevailing Party" Eligible for Attorney Fees 4.42
          • (2) Examples of Cases Applying Rule Permitting Nonsignator to Be "Prevailing Party" 4.43
        • d. Awards Against Nonsignators to Contract
          • (1) General Rule: Nonsignators Who Would Be Entitled to Fees if They Prevailed Are Liable for Fees if They Do Not Prevail 4.44
          • (2) Split of Authority Regarding Nonsignators Who Claim Fees But Would Not Be Entitled to Them if They Prevailed 4.45
          • (3) Examples of Cases Awarding Fees Against Nonsignators 4.46
          • (4) Examples of Cases Refusing to Award Fees Against Nonsignators 4.47
          • (5) Special Rule for Sureties 4.48
    • C. Is the Action "On a Contract"? 4.49
      • 1. Considerations in Determining Whether Action Is "on a Contract" 4.50
        • a. Examples of Cases Finding Action "on a Contract" 4.51
        • b. Examples of Cases Finding Action Not "on a Contract" 4.52
      • 2. Finding That Action Is Not "on a Contract" Does Not Preclude Fee Award Under Broadly Worded Fee Clause 4.53
    • D. Other Eligibility Issues
      • 1. Contractual Limitations 4.54
      • 2. Estoppel
        • a. Party Who Claimed Attorney Fees Under Contractual Provision Is Not Estopped From Later Disputing Provision's Applicability 4.55
        • b. Estoppel Cannot Be Basis for Awarding Fees in Absence of Independent Right to Recover Fees 4.56
      • 3. Indemnity Agreements
        • a. Nature of Indemnity Agreements Generally 4.57
        • b. Indemnity Agreements and Contractual Attorney Fees 4.58
      • 4. Parties Represented Without Charge
        • a. Represented Parties Eligible for Fees Even When Represented Without Charge 4.59
        • b. Exception for Self-Represented Attorneys and Nonattorneys 4.60
        • c. Determining Amount of Fees When Parties Represented Without Charge 4.61
      • 5. Fees for Enforcing Judgment
        • a. Contractual Fee Awards Include Fees Incurred Enforcing Judgment 4.62
        • b. Enforcement Fees Available for Wide Variety of Enforcement Activities 4.63
      • 6. Choice of Law Provisions 4.64
    • E. Eligibility Issues Affecting Contract-Based Fees for Noncontract Causes of Action 4.65
  • IV. ENTITLEMENT TO ATTORNEY FEES UNDER CONTRACTUAL FEE CLAUSES
    • A. Civil Code §1717 Provides Fees to the "Party Prevailing on the Contract" 4.66
      • 1. Determining the "Party Prevailing on the Contract" 4.67
        • a. "Prevailing Party" Under CC §1717 Not Necessarily Same as "Prevailing Party" for Purposes of Costs Under CCP §1032 4.68
        • b. Party That Recovers "Greater Relief on the Contract" Is Entitled to Fees 4.69
        • c. Definition of "Prevailing Party" Cannot Be Altered by Contract 4.70
        • d. Prevailing Party Determination Guided by Equitable Considerations 4.71
          • (1) Court Compares Relief Awarded With Parties' Objectives, Demands, and Positions 4.72
          • (2) Court's Discretion Limited in Case of "Simple, Unqualified Win" 4.73
        • e. Only One Prevailing Party Per Contract 4.74
        • f. In Disputes Involving Multiple Contracts with Fee-Shifting Clauses, Prevailing Party Is Determined for Each Contract 4.75
        • g. Defendant Need Not Obtain Affirmative Relief to Be Prevailing Party 4.76
        • h. Examples of Cases Determining Prevailing Party 4.77
      • 2. "Prevailing Party" in Particular Situations
        • a. Defendant's Tender of Sums Due at Time of Answer 4.78
        • b. Code of Civil Procedure §998 Offers
          • (1) Code of Civil Procedure §998 Generally 4.79
          • (2) If Defendant's Offer Exceeds Plaintiff's Recovery 4.80
          • (3) If Plaintiff Accepts CCP §998 Offer 4.81
        • c. Recovery of Less Than Jurisdictional Limit 4.82
        • d. Voluntary Dismissal
          • (1) Under CC §1717, There Is No Prevailing Party in Case of Voluntary Dismissal 4.83
          • (2) Rule Does Not Apply to Contract-Based Fees for Noncontract Causes of Action 4.84
          • (3) Rule Does Not Apply to Other Fee-Shifting Statutes 4.85
          • (4) Effect of Settlement 4.86
          • (5) Rule Does Not Apply to Involuntary Dismissals, Including Dismissals for Failure to Prosecute 4.87
        • e. Court May Determine That No Party Has Prevailed 4.88
      • 3. Prevailing Party Under Contractual Fee Provisions That Apply to Noncontract Causes of Action
        • a. Prevailing Party Defined by Language of Contract 4.89
        • b. Definition When Contract Silent 4.90
    • B. Timing of Prevailing Party Determination
      • 1. General Rule: Entitlement to Fees Based on Outcome of Case as a Whole 4.91
      • 2. Prevailing Party Determination Is Made by Trial Court 4.92
      • 3. Arbitrations 4.93
      • 4. Orders for Interim Relief
        • a. Order Compelling Arbitration 4.94
        • b. Other Interim Orders 4.95
      • 5. Enforcing Prior Judgment 4.96
    • C. Entitlement to Fees When Noncontract Claims Combined With Contract Claims 4.97
      • 1. General Rule: Prevailing Party Entitled to Fees Only for Work on Contract Claims, Unless Inextricably Intertwined With Work on Noncontract Claims 4.98
      • 2. Work on Common Issues or Overlapping Claims 4.99
      • 3. Work That Contributes to Success of Contract Claims 4.100
      • 4. Fees for Work on Noncontract Claims Recoverable if Contract So Provides 4.101

5

Attorney Fee Awards Based on Equitable Theories

  • I. ATTORNEY FEES AWARDABLE UNDER EQUITABLE THEORIES TO PARTIES WHO PREVAIL BY JUDGMENT OR SETTLEMENT
    • A. Equitable Theories for Obtaining Fee Awards
      • 1. General Rule Against Fee Awards in Absence of Statutory or Contractual Authorization 5.1
      • 2. Equitable Exceptions in California 5.2
      • 3. Equitable Exceptions in Federal Courts 5.3
    • B. Court Has Broad Discretion to Award Fees When Acting in Equity 5.4
    • C. Conditions Under Which Court May Award Fees Under Equitable Doctrines
      • 1. Fee Claimant Must Be Prevailing Party and Must Establish Elements of Applicable Doctrine 5.5
      • 2. Fees May Be Awarded When Action Concluded by Settlement 5.6
      • 3. Fees May Be Awarded When Litigation Results in Corrective Action 5.7
      • 4. In Limited Circumstances, Fees May Be Awarded When Relief Obtained Before Lawsuit Filed 5.8
      • 5. Equitable Doctrines Apply to Administrative Proceedings 5.9
  • II. THE COMMON FUND EQUITABLE EXCEPTION
    • A. Common Fund Doctrine Requires Passive Beneficiaries to Bear Share of Litigation Costs 5.10
    • B. Requirements for Award Under Common Fund Doctrine 5.11
      • 1. Identifiable Fund 5.12
      • 2. Fund Results From the Litigation 5.13
      • 3. Beneficiaries, Not Defendant, Must Pay Fees 5.14
      • 4. Additional Considerations 5.15
        • a. Court's Control Over Fund 5.16
        • b. "Special Circumstances" 5.17
    • C. Comparing Common Fund Fee Awards to Statutory Fee Awards
      • 1. Common Fund Awards May Result in Larger Fees Than Statutory Awards 5.18
      • 2. Common Fund Award May Be Combined With Statutory Award 5.19
      • 3. Only Beneficiaries of Fund May Appeal 5.20
    • D. Comparing Common Fund Doctrine to Private Attorney General Doctrine 5.21
      • 1. Cases Rejecting Use of Private Attorney General Statute or Doctrine When Common Fund Available 5.22
      • 2. Cases Awarding Fees Under Private Attorney General Statute Despite Availability of Common Fund 5.23
    • E. Comparing Common Fund Doctrine to Substantial Benefit Doctrine 5.24
    • F. Constructive Common Fund Doctrine 5.25
    • G. Codification of Common Fund/Equitable Apportionment Doctrine 5.26
      • 1. Labor Code §3856 5.27
      • 2. Labor Code §3860(e) 5.28
      • 3. Equitable Apportionment Does Not Apply When Each Party Retains Counsel and Each Counsel Actively Participates 5.29
      • 4. Equitable Apportionment Does Not Apply to County's Recovery of Lien for Medical Services to Indigent Patient 5.30
    • H. Calculating Fees in Common Fund Cases 5.31
  • III. THE SUBSTANTIAL BENEFIT EQUITABLE EXCEPTION
    • A. Substantial Benefit Doctrine Provides Fees When Cost Can Be Shifted to Those Benefited 5.32
    • B. Requirements of Substantial Benefit Doctrine 5.33
      • 1. Suit Must Be Litigated in a Representative Capacity and Confer Benefits on Ascertainable Class
        • a. Representative Capacity 5.34
        • b. Ascertainable Class 5.35
        • c. Examples of Cases Litigated in a Representative Capacity on Behalf of Ascertainable Class 5.36
      • 2. Benefits Conferred Must Be Actual and Concrete 5.37
        • a. Either Pecuniary or Nonpecuniary Benefits May Qualify 5.38
        • b. Bringing Defendant Into Conformity With Existing Law Does Not Qualify 5.39
        • c. Stare Decisis Benefits Do Not Qualify 5.40
      • 3. Court Must Be Able to Spread Fees Proportionately Among Those Benefited 5.41
        • a. Fees May Be Recovered When Either Plaintiff or Defendant Has Benefited, if Fees Recoverable From Benefits 5.42
        • b. Examples 5.43
    • C. Comparing Substantial Benefit and Private Attorney General Doctrines 5.44
      • 1. Differences in Types of Benefits Obtained 5.45
        • a. Substantial Benefit Doctrine Applies Only When Benefit Is Concrete 5.46
        • b. Private Attorney General Doctrine May Apply When Benefits Are Less Concrete 5.47
        • c. Doctrines May Be Combined 5.48
      • 2. Differences in Amount of Fees That May Be Awarded
        • a. Lodestar Method Not Required 5.49
        • b. Fees Limited by Benefits Recovered 5.50
        • c. Fees for Fee-Related Services 5.51
    • D. Examples of Cases Considering Substantial Benefit Doctrine
      • 1. Cases Awarding Fees Under Substantial Benefit Doctrine 5.52
      • 2. Cases Denying Fees Under Substantial Benefit Doctrine 5.53
  • IV. THE PRIVATE ATTORNEY GENERAL EQUITABLE EXCEPTION
    • A. Nature of Equitable Private Attorney General Doctrine
      • 1. Court's Inherent Equitable Power 5.54
      • 2. Purpose of Doctrine 5.55
    • B. Doctrine Not Available Under Federal Law 5.56
    • C. Comparing Equitable and Statutory (CCP §1021.5) Private Attorney General Doctrines
      • 1. Equitable Doctrine Remains Viable 5.57
      • 2. Code of Civil Procedure §1021.5 Applies to Statutory as Well as Constitutional Rights 5.58
      • 3. Equitable Doctrine May Apply When CCP §1021.5 Not Available 5.59
  • V. CHART: COMPARING COMMON FUND, SUBSTANTIAL BENEFIT, AND PRIVATE ATTORNEY GENERAL THEORIES 5.60

6

Attorney Fees Awarded as Sanctions

  • I. INTRODUCTION
    • A. Attorney Fees as Sanctions: General Considerations 6.1
    • B. Must Have Specific Statutory Basis 6.2
  • II. SANCTIONS FOR ACTIONS BROUGHT WITHOUT REASONABLE CAUSE AND/OR IN BAD FAITH 6.3
    • A. Actions Under Government Claims Act or for Indemnity/Contribution (CCP §1038) 6.4
    • B. Actions Against Peace Officers (CCP §1021.7) 6.5
    • C. Actions for Misappropriation of Trade Secrets (CC §3426.4) 6.6
    • D. Actions Brought by Vexatious Litigants (CCP §§391–391.7) 6.7
  • III. SANCTIONS FOR GENERAL LITIGATION CONDUCT: CCP §§128.5 AND 128.7 6.8
    • A. Code of Civil Procedure §128.7: Litigation Sanctions in Actions Filed Since January 1, 1995 6.9
      • 1. Code of Civil Procedure §128.7 Based on Fed R Civ P 11 6.10
      • 2. When CCP §128.7 Sanctions Are Available
        • a. Requirements of §128.7
          • (1) Applies to Every Pleading, Petition, Motion, and "Similar Paper" That Must Be Signed by Attorney or Unrepresented Party 6.11
          • (2) Does Not Apply to Discovery Motions 6.12
          • (3) Party Seeking Sanctions Must Comply With Safe Harbor Provision 6.13
          • (4) Dismissal Does Not Moot Sanctions Motion 6.14
          • (5) Sanctions Available if Document Does Not Meet Three Conditions 6.15
            • (a) Document Not for "Improper Purpose" 6.16
            • (b) Arguments Warranted by Law 6.17
            • (c) Factual Contentions or Denials Supportable 6.18
        • b. Sanctions Also Available for Improper Sanctions Motions 6.19
      • 3. Elements of CCP §128.7 Sanctions Award
        • a. Who May Be Sanctioned 6.20
        • b. Who May Recover Sanctions
          • (1) Pro Per Litigants May Not Recover Attorney Fees 6.21
          • (2) Contingent Fee Cases 6.22
        • c. Court Must Explain Basis for Sanctions It Imposes 6.23
        • d. Amount of Attorney Fees Court May Award 6.24
      • 4. Procedures for Obtaining Sanctions Under CCP §128.7
        • a. Separate Noticed Motion 6.25
        • b. Safe Harbor Period 6.26
        • c. Coordination of Hearing Dates to Meet Safe Harbor Requirements 6.27
        • d. Court's Own Motion 6.28
    • B. Code of Civil Procedure §128.5 6.29
      • 1. When CCP §128.5 Sanctions Are Available
        • a. Standards for Determining Bad Faith Actions or Frivolous Tactics 6.30
        • b. Both Frivolousness and Bad Faith Required 6.31
        • c. Sanctions Award Mandatory if Court Finds Anti-SLAPP Motion Frivolous or Intended Solely for Delay 6.32
      • 2. Elements of CCP §128.5 Sanctions Award
        • a. Fees May Be Awarded Against Client, Attorney, or Both 6.33
        • b. Court Must State Reasons for Imposing Sanctions 6.34
        • c. Amount of Fees Awardable 6.35
        • d. Period for Which Fees May Be Awarded 6.36
        • e. Sanctions May Not Be Imposed for Costs or Expenses Unrelated to the Litigation 6.37
        • f. Fees May Be Available for Time Spent Obtaining Sanctions 6.38
        • g. Procedure for Obtaining CCP §128.5 Sanctions 6.39
    • C. Factors That May Affect Entitlement to Fees Awarded as Sanctions 6.40
      • 1. Type of Case
        • a. Political Office Controversy 6.41
        • b. Judicial Challenge 6.42
        • c. In Lieu of Malicious Prosecution Action 6.43
        • d. Administrative Proceedings 6.44
        • e. Contractual Arbitration Proceedings 6.45
      • 2. Parties' Status
        • a. Public Entity 6.46
        • b. Client 6.47
        • c. Former Party 6.48
        • d. Pro Per Litigant 6.49
        • e. Convicted Felon 6.50
  • IV. DISCOVERY SANCTIONS; CCP §§2023.010–2023.040
    • A. Permissive Discovery Sanctions 6.51
    • B. Mandatory Discovery Sanctions 6.52
    • C. Safe Harbor for Sanctions for Electronically Stored Information 6.53
    • D. How to Obtain Discovery Sanctions 6.54
    • E. Availability of Discovery Sanctions Under Federal Law 6.55
  • V. OTHER SANCTION STATUTES
    • A. Violation of Local Rules (CCP §575.2) 6.56
    • B. Contempt-Type Proceedings (CCP §§701.020, 1218(a)) 6.57
    • C. No Attorney Fees as Sanctions for Bad Faith Affidavits in Summary Judgment Motions (CCP §437c(i)) 6.58
    • D. No Attorney Fees as Sanctions for Trial Continuance (CCP §1024) 6.59
  • VI. FRIVOLOUS APPEALS (CCP §907 AND CAL RULES OF CT 8.276(a)) 6.60
    • A. Only a Party May Seek Sanctions 6.61
    • B. Sanctions Awardable When Appeal Is Frivolous or Taken Solely for Purposes of Delay
      • 1. The Subjective "Motive" Standard 6.62
      • 2. The Objective "Frivolous" Standard 6.63
      • 3. Relationship Between Subjective and Objective Standards 6.64
    • C. Sanctions Awardable for Partially Frivolous Appeals 6.65
    • D. Appellate Sanctions for Appeal of Sanctions Order Determined Independently of Trial Court Sanctions 6.66
    • E. Sanctions for Frivolous Appeal May Not Be Recovered in Subsequent Bad Faith Action 6.67
    • F. Fees May Be Awarded Against Client, Attorney, or Both 6.68
    • G. Amount of Sanctions 6.69
      • 1. Amount of Sanctions May Include Cost to Court System 6.70
      • 2. Other Factors Determining Amount of Sanctions 6.71
    • H. Examples of Fee Awards as Sanctions for Frivolous Appeals 6.72
    • I. How to Obtain Sanctions for a Frivolous Appeal 6.73

7

Fees as Damages

  • I. ATTORNEY FEES RECOVERABLE AS DAMAGES
    • A. Attorney Fees Available as Damages in Some Cases 7.1
    • B. Nonstatutory Costs and Expert Witness Fees May Also Be Recoverable by Parties' Agreement 7.2
  • II. TYPES OF ACTIONS IN WHICH ATTORNEY FEES ARE GENERALLY SOUGHT AS DAMAGES 7.3
    • A. "Tort of Another" Doctrine: Fees as Damages When Tortfeasor's Action Causes Suit By or Against Third Party 7.4
      • 1. Doctrine May Apply Even if Tortfeasor and Third Party Are Joined in Action 7.5
      • 2. Doctrine May Apply Even if Plaintiff Loses Case Against Third Party 7.6
      • 3. Examples of Doctrine 7.7
      • 4. Circumstances in Which Doctrine Does Not Apply 7.8
    • B. Brandt Fees: Fees as Damages When Insurance Benefits Denied in Bad Faith 7.9
      • 1. Brandt Fees Available Only if Denial of Benefits Is in Bad Faith 7.10
      • 2. Brandt Fees Not Available for Bad Faith Denial of Contract 7.11
    • C. Limitations on Fees Recoverable Under "Tort of Another" Doctrine and Brandt 7.12
      • 1. Under "Tort of Another" Doctrine, Fees Limited to Those Incurred Against Third Party; Fees Incurred Against Tortfeasor Not Recoverable as Damages 7.13
      • 2. Under Brandt, Fees Limited to Those Incurred to Prove Bad Faith Denial of Benefits 7.14
      • 3. Calculating Fees in Contingent Fee Cases 7.15
      • 4. Appellate Fees 7.16
      • 5. Assignment of Right to Brandt Fees 7.17
    • D. False Imprisonment 7.18
    • E. Malicious Prosecution 7.19
    • F. Legal Malpractice Actions 7.20
    • G. Attorney's Suit Against Client to Recover Fees 7.21
    • H. Insured's Suit Against Insurer for Wrongful Failure to Defend 7.22
    • I. Indemnification Proceedings 7.23
    • J. Other Actions 7.24
  • III. ACTIONS FOR WHICH ATTORNEY FEES MAY NOT BE RECOVERED AS DAMAGES 7.25
    • A. Insurer's Good Faith Failure to Defend 7.26
    • B. Misrepresentation by Agent 7.27
    • C. Responding to Extortionate Demands 7.28
    • D. Attorney's Attempt to Collect or Retain Unreasonable Fees 7.29
    • E. Some Indemnity Agreements 7.30
    • F. Suit Against Fiduciary 7.31
    • G. City's Nontortious Denial of Claim of Damage 7.32
    • H. Attorney Fees May Be Considered for Other Purposes 7.33
  • IV. PROCEDURE FOR SEEKING FEES AS DAMAGES 7.34

8

Methods of Fee Calculation

  • I. FEE CALCULATION METHODS: LODESTAR-ADJUSTMENT; PERCENTAGE OF RECOVERY; AMOUNT SET BY STATUTE, RULE, OR AGREEMENT 8.1
    • A. Lodestar-Adjustment Method Defined 8.2
    • B. Primacy of Lodestar-Adjustment Method 8.3
      • 1. Fee-Shifting Statutes 8.4
      • 2. Contractual Fees 8.5
      • 3. Other Cases Demonstrating Primacy of Lodestar-Adjustment Method 8.6
      • 4. When Use of Lodestar-Adjustment Method Less Likely 8.7
      • 5. Common Fund and Substantial Benefit Cases 8.8
      • 6. Use of Percentage Fee as Factor in or Cross-Check to Lodestar-Based Fee 8.9
      • 7. Federal Law 8.10
    • C. Calculating the Award in Common Fund and Substantial Benefit Cases Using Lodestar-Adjustment Method Versus Percentage-of-Fund Method 8.11
      • 1. California Law
        • a. Goal Is Reasonable Fee Under Circumstances 8.12
        • b. No Preference Expressed 8.13
        • c. Percentage-of-Recovery Method Best Used When Amount of Fund Is Certain or Easily Calculable 8.14
        • d. Lodestar-Adjustment Method Used as Cross-Check to Fee Determined By Percentage-of-Fund Method 8.15
      • 2. Federal Law
        • a. Goal Is Reasonable Fee Under Circumstances 8.16
        • b. Preference for Percentage-Based Fees 8.17
        • c. Twenty-Five-Percent "Benchmark" in Common Fund Cases 8.18
        • d. Lodestar-Adjustment Method Still Used, Either as Primary Method or Cross-Check 8.19
        • e. Class Actions Involving "Coupon Recovery" 8.20
    • D. Fees Awarded as Sanctions 8.21
    • E. Fees Set by Statute 8.22
    • F. Fees Set by Court Schedule 8.23
    • G. Fees Set by Agreement 8.24
  • II. LODESTAR-BASED FEE AWARDS GENERALLY NOT LIMITED BY AMOUNT OF DAMAGES RECOVERED: NO RULE OF "PROPORTIONALITY"
    • A. Relationship Between Relief Awarded and Fee Claim 8.25
    • B. California Law 8.26
    • C. Federal Law
      • 1. Fee Awards Generally Not Limited by Damages Amount 8.27
      • 2. Exception in Federal Civil Rights Cases for "Technical" or "De Minimis" Victories 8.28
  • III. IMPACT OF FEE AGREEMENT WITH CLIENT
    • A. Effect of Contingent Fee Agreements on Lodestar-Based Fees
      • 1. Issues Raised by Contingent Fee Agreement 8.29
      • 2. Lodestar Method Should Be Used Even if Counsel's Representation Is on Contingent Fee Basis 8.30
        • a. Cases Establishing Primacy of Lodestar Method 8.31
        • b. Awards Based on Quantum Meruit 8.32
        • c. Award Based on Contingent Fee Contract, Supported by Lodestar-Adjustment Factors 8.33
        • d. Lodestar-Adjustment Method Is Standard in Large Damage Cases 8.34
    • B. Effect of Contingent Fee Agreements in Statutory Fee Cases 8.35
      • 1. California Cases 8.36
      • 2. Federal Cases 8.37
    • C. Effect of Contingent Fee Agreement in Cases Using Percentage-of-Recovery Method 8.38

9

Determining the Lodestar

  • I. CALCULATING THE LODESTAR FIGURE
    • A. The Lodestar: Hours Reasonably Spent Times Reasonable Hourly Rate 9.1
    • B. Importance of Trial Court's Calculation of Lodestar Figure 9.2
  • II. HOURS REASONABLY SPENT
    • A. The Applicable Standard
      • 1. Counsel Should Recover for All Hours "Reasonably Spent" 9.3
      • 2. Standard for Determining Whether Time "Reasonably Spent" 9.4
      • 3. Importance of "Billing Judgment" 9.5
    • B. Compensable Activities
      • 1. Prelitigation Activities
        • a. Time Spent on Case Before Filing May Be Compensable 9.6
        • b. Time Spent on Prelitigation Administrative Proceedings May Be Compensable 9.7
      • 2. Litigation Activities
        • a. Time Reasonably Spent on Litigation Activities Generally Is Compensable 9.8
        • b. Examples of Litigation Activities That May Be Compensable 9.9
        • c. Court Appearance Not Required for Time to Be Compensable 9.10
        • d. Litigation Necessitated by Third Parties May Be Compensable 9.11
        • e. Time Spent Opposing Intervenors May Be Compensable 9.12
      • 3. Ancillary Proceedings
        • a. Time Spent on Ancillary Proceedings Closely Related to Litigation Is Compensable 9.13
        • b. Work Required in Ancillary Forums to Protect Decree Is Compensable 9.14
        • c. Time Spent on Amicus Curiae Briefs Closely Related to Litigation May Be Compensable 9.15
      • 4. Fee-Related Services
        • a. Time Spent Litigating Fee Claim Is Compensable Under Fee-Shifting Statutes 9.16
        • b. Time Spent Litigating Fee Claim Based on Contract Is Compensable 9.17
        • c. Time Spent Securing or Opposing Sanctions Award May Be Compensable 9.18
        • d. Time Spent on Fee-Related Services Under Equitable Common Fund and Substantial Benefit Theories 9.19
        • e. Standards for Determining Whether Fee-Related Services Are Reasonable
          • (1) California Law 9.20
          • (2) Federal Law 9.21
        • f. Cost of Expert Witnesses Retained to Support Fee Claim May Be Compensable 9.22
        • g. Examples of Cases Awarding Substantial Fees for Fee Litigation 9.23
      • 5. Enforcement, Monitoring, and Collection Activities
        • a. Work Enforcing or Monitoring Prior Decrees May Be Compensable 9.24
        • b. Work Defending Consent Decree Against Third Party Attack in Separate Action May Be Compensable 9.25
        • c. Fee Awards in Class Actions May Include Awards for Future Monitoring and Enforcement, or May Establish a Process for Claiming Future Fees 9.26
        • d. Time Spent Collecting or Securing Judgment May Be Compensable 9.27
      • 6. Travel Time 9.28
      • 7. Time Spent by Paralegals and Law Clerks
        • a. General Rule: Paralegal and Law Clerk Time Is Compensable 9.29
        • b. Attorney Performing Paralegal Work 9.30
      • 8. Appellate Services, Including Original Writs
        • a. Appellate Services Generally Compensable When Reasonable Attorney Fees Provided by Statute or Contract 9.31
          • (1) Costs on Appeal Are Separate From Attorney Fees on Appeal 9.32
          • (2) Appellate Fees May Be Recoverable Regardless of Whether Trial Court Awards Fees Initially 9.33
          • (3) Appellate Fees May Be Recoverable Regardless of Whether Appellate Court Awards Fees 9.34
          • (4) Same Rules Apply to Work on Original Writ Proceedings 9.35
        • b. Appellate Fees Under Fee-Shifting Statutes
          • (1) General Rule: Appellate Services Are Compensable Under Fee-Shifting Statutes 9.36
          • (2) Inverse Condemnation Appellate Services 9.37
        • c. Appellate Fees Under Contractual Fee Clauses
          • (1) General Rule: Appellate Services Are Compensable Under Contracts Providing for Attorney Fees 9.38
          • (2) Contract Providing Fees for Arbitration 9.39
          • (3) Split of Authority Concerning Fees for Appealing Indemnification Award 9.40
        • d. Appellate Fees Under Equitable Theories
          • (1) General Rule: Appellate Services Are Compensable Under Equitable Theories 9.41
          • (2) Split of Authority Concerning Brandt Fees 9.42
        • e. Standards for Determining Entitlement to Appellate Fees
          • (1) General Rule: Entitlement to Appellate Fees Based on Outcome of Case as a Whole, Not Who "Won" the Appeal 9.43
          • (2) Fees May Be Available When Party Ultimately Prevails 9.44
        • f. Entitlement to Fees for Partially Successful Appeals
          • (1) California Courts 9.45
          • (2) Federal Courts 9.46
        • g. Standards for Determining Whether Appellate Services Are Reasonable 9.47
    • C. Limitations on Compensability of Time Actually Spent 9.48
      • 1. Partial or Limited Success: Determining Whether a Reduction Is Appropriate 9.49
        • a. Party That Obtains Excellent Results Is Entitled to Fully Compensatory Fee 9.50
        • b. Time Spent on Unsuccessful or Partially Successful Claims 9.51
          • (1) General Rule: Time Spent on Unsuccessful Unrelated Claims Not Compensable; Court May Reduce Fee Accordingly 9.52
            • (a) Distinguishing Between Unsuccessful Theories and Unsuccessful Claims
              • (i) General Rule: All Time Reasonably Spent on Unsuccessful Theory Is Compensable 9.53
              • (ii) Distinction Between Theories and Claims Not Always Clear 9.54
            • (b) Distinguishing Between "Related" and "Unrelated" Claims
              • (i) "Unrelated" Claims Involve "Entirely Distinct and Separate Courses of Conduct"; "Related" Claims Involve Common Facts or Legal Theories 9.55
              • (ii) Examples 9.56
            • (c) Lodestar Adjustments for Partial Success ("Negative Multipliers") 9.57
          • (2) Exceptions to "Partial Success" Rules 9.58
            • (a) All Time Spent on Common Work Is Compensable 9.59
            • (b) Time Spent on Unsuccessful Claims That Contribute to Success of Other Claims Is Compensable 9.60
            • (c) Time Spent on Unsuccessful Claims That Is Impossible to Segregate, Is Inextricably Intertwined With the Successful Claim, or De Minimis May Be Compensable 9.61
            • (d) Time Spent on Issues Court Does Not Address May Be Compensable 9.62
            • (e) Time Spent on Claims That Are Ultimately Successful Is Compensable 9.63
            • (f) Time Spent Against Parties From Whom No Relief Obtained 9.64
      • 2. Time Spent on Nonfee Claims Joined With Fee Claims
        • a. General Rule: Work on Nonfee Claims Is Not Compensable 9.65
        • b. Exception When Work on Both Claims Is Closely Related 9.66
        • c. Exception When Work Is Relevant to Both Fee and Nonfee Claims 9.67
        • d. Special Rule in Cartwright Act Cases 9.68
        • e. Exception When Work on Nonfee Claim Cannot Be Segregated From Work on Fee Claim 9.69
      • 3. Time Spent on Public Versus Private Claims
        • a. Cases in Which Public Benefit Is Required for Fee Award 9.70
        • b. Cases in Which No Broad Public Benefit Is Required 9.71
      • 4. Alleged Duplication of Effort by Counsel
        • a. General Rule: Time Spent by Multiple Attorneys Is Compensable if Reasonable 9.72
        • b. California 9.73
        • c. Federal 9.74
          • (1) Fee Claimants With Separate Interests 9.75
          • (2) Rulings on Specific Types of Alleged Duplication 9.76
          • (3) Burden Is on Party Challenging Hours for Duplication 9.77
      • 5. Reductions Based on "Special Circumstances" That Would Make Fully Compensatory Award Unjust 9.78
    • D. Apportioning Fees Among Liable Parties
      • 1. Fee Award May Be Apportioned Among Defendants or Claims 9.79
      • 2. Allocation Among Defendants Need Not Be Based on Time Spent Litigating Against Particular Defendants 9.80
      • 3. If Court Does Not Apportion Award Among Defendants 9.81
    • E. Documenting Reasonable Hours
      • 1. Importance of Accurate Recordkeeping 9.82
      • 2. Recordkeeping Requirements Under California Fee-Shifting Law
        • a. Detailed Time Records Not Required But Advisable 9.83
        • b. Level of Detail Required 9.84
        • c. Redaction of Privileged Information 9.85
      • 3. Recordkeeping Requirements Under Federal Law
        • a. Some Federal Courts May Reduce Award if No Contemporaneous Records 9.86
        • b. Lack of Contemporaneous Records Not Fatal to Fee Claim 9.87
        • c. Level of Detail Required 9.88
        • d. Redaction of Privileged Information 9.89
      • 4. Burden of Challenging Claimed Hours 9.90
      • 5. Challenging Hours on Appeal 9.91
  • III. REASONABLE HOURLY RATES
    • A. Trial Court Must Determine Reasonable Hourly Rate for Each Attorney Claiming Fees 9.92
    • B. General Rule: Market Rates Set Standard 9.93
      • 1. Rule Applies Regardless of How Attorney Claiming Fees Charges for Services 9.94
      • 2. Rule Applies to Public Interest Lawyers
        • a. California 9.95
        • b. Federal 9.96
      • 3. Rule Applies to Private Attorneys Charging Less Than Market Rates 9.97
      • 4. Rule Applies to Attorneys Charging Contingent Fee 9.98
      • 5. Rule Applies to In-House Counsel 9.99
      • 6. Exceptions to Market Rate Rule
        • a. Statutes Setting Applicable Rate 9.100
        • b. Court Schedules Setting Hourly Rates 9.101
        • c. Contract Setting Applicable Rate 9.102
      • 7. Cost-Accounting Method of Determining Rates Rejected 9.103
    • C. General Rule: Requested Rate Should Be Awarded if in Line with Rates of Reasonably Comparable Attorneys Performing Reasonably Comparable Services 9.104
      • 1. Determining Reasonably Comparable Attorneys 9.105
        • a. Practice Area 9.106
        • b. Special Qualifications 9.107
        • c. Firm Size 9.108
      • 2. Determining Reasonably Comparable Services
        • a. Rates Charged by Attorneys Handling Cases of Comparable Difficulty Generally Set Standard 9.109
        • b. General Rule: Rate Does Not Vary Depending on Task Performed 9.110
      • 3. Determining Whether to Use Current or Historical Rates
        • a. Current Rates May Be Used to Compensate for Delay in Payment 9.111
        • b. Exception for Fee Awards Against the United States 9.112
        • c. Most California Awards Based on Current Rates 9.113
      • 4. Determining the Geographic Market
        • a. General Rule: "Market" Is Community Where Services Are Rendered 9.114
        • b. Exception May Be Made for Counsel From Market Where Rates Are Higher Than Forum Rate 9.115
      • 5. Avoiding Double-Counting: Same Facts May Not Be Used to Determine Both Lodestar and Multiplier
        • a. California 9.116
        • b. Federal 9.117
      • 6. Paralegals, Law Clerks, and Other Billing Personnel
        • a. Paralegal, Law Clerk, and Student Time Compensable at Market Rates 9.118
        • b. Other Billing Personnel 9.119
    • D. Proof of Appropriate Rates
      • 1. Burden of Proof Is on Party Seeking Fee Award 9.120
      • 2. Methods of Demonstrating Market Rates 9.121
    • E. Challenging Claimed Rate
      • 1. In Absence of Contradictory Evidence, Requested Rates Presumed Reasonable 9.122
      • 2. Burden on Party Challenging Claimed Rate 9.123
  • IV. RECOVERING NONSTATUTORY COSTS AND EXPENSES
    • A. California Rule
      • 1. Expert Witness Fees Not Recoverable Under CCP §1021.5 9.124
      • 2. Expert Witness Fees May Be Recoverable Under Other Fee-Shifting Statutes and by Contractual Agreement 9.125
      • 3. Other Nonstatutory Costs and Expenses
        • a. Contract Cases 9.126
        • b. Statutory Fee Cases 9.127
    • B. Federal Rule 9.128
      • 1. Expert Witness Fees Not Recoverable Absent Express Statutory Authorization 9.129
      • 2. Other Nonstatutory Costs and Expenses Recoverable as Attorney Fees 9.130
    • C. Nonstatutory Costs Recoverable Under Equitable Doctrines 9.131
  • V. INTEREST ON ATTORNEY FEE AWARDS
    • A. Interest Accrues on Fee Award 9.132
    • B. Date Interest Starts Accruing 9.133
    • C. Exception May Apply When Federal Government Is Defendant 9.134

10

Determining Adjustments to the Lodestar

  • I. INCREASING OR DECREASING THE LODESTAR: APPLICATION OF A MULTIPLIER 10.1
    • A. Adjusting the Lodestar: General Rules 10.2
      • 1. Factors Considered 10.3
      • 2. Scope of Trial Court's Discretion 10.4
      • 3. Factors May Not Be "Double-Counted" 10.5
      • 4. Fee Resulting From Use of Multiplier Must Be Reasonable 10.6
      • 5. Negative and Positive Multipliers Governed by the Same Standards 10.7
    • B. Examples of Cases Involving Lodestar Adjustment
      • 1. Cases Affirming Lodestar Enhancement 10.8
      • 2. Cases Reversing Denials of Lodestar Enhancements 10.9
      • 3. Cases Reversing Lodestar Enhancements 10.10
      • 4. Cases Involving Negative Multipliers 10.11
    • C. Enhancing the Lodestar for Fee-Related Services 10.12
    • D. Enhancing the Lodestar for Appellate Services 10.13
    • E. Effect of Contingency Fee Agreement on Lodestar Adjustment 10.14
    • F. Courts Retain Limited Discretion to Reduce or Deny Unreasonable Fee Claim 10.15
  • II. CALIFORNIA AND FEDERAL LAW ON USE OF MULTIPLIERS COMPARED 10.16
    • A. California Law
      • 1. Independence of California Law on Attorney Fee Awards 10.17
      • 2. Differences Between California and Federal Law on Application of Multipliers 10.18
      • 3. Differences Between California and Other States on Application of Multipliers 10.19
      • 4. No Enhancement in Favor of Government Entities Under CCP §1021.5 10.20
      • 5. Factors May Not Be "Double-Counted" 10.21
    • B. Federal Law
      • 1. Multipliers Rare Under Federal Fee-Shifting Statutes 10.22
      • 2. Strong Presumption That Lodestar Is Reasonable 10.23
      • 3. Lodestar Must Be Determined First 10.24
      • 4. Lodestar Multipliers Still Permitted in Exceptional Cases 10.25
      • 5. Examples of Lodestar Adjustments Under Federal Fee-Shifting Statutes 10.26
      • 6. Factors May Not Be "Double-Counted" 10.27
      • 7. Multipliers in Federal Common Fund Cases 10.28
      • 8. Multipliers in Federal Class Actions Involving "Coupon Settlements" 10.29
      • 9. Multipliers in Other Federal Cases in Which Client Pays the Fee 10.30
  • III. FACTORS JUSTIFYING INCREASE OR DECREASE OF LODESTAR
    • A. Novelty and Difficulty of Questions Involved, Complexity of Case, and Skill Displayed 10.31
      • 1. "Quality of Representation" Factors Often Intertwined With Other Factors 10.32
      • 2. "Quality" Factors and Fee-Related Services 10.33
      • 3. Federal Law on "Quality" Factors 10.34
      • 4. "Quality" Factors and Reduction of Lodestar 10.35
      • 5. Examples of Cases Applying "Quality of Representation" Factors 10.36
    • B. "Results Obtained" Factor 10.37
      • 1. Extent of Success Required 10.38
      • 2. "Success" Can Include Broader Effects of Litigation 10.39
      • 3. Class Actions With Monetized Recoveries 10.40
    • C. Contingent Risk Factor
      • 1. Risk Multipliers Under California Law
        • a. Contingent Risk May Be Used to Adjust Lodestar 10.41
        • b. Purpose and Application of Risk Enhancement 10.42
        • c. Risk Multiplier for Appellate Services 10.43
        • d. Risk Multiplier for Fee-Related Services 10.44
      • 2. Risk Multipliers Under Federal Law
        • a. Risk Multipliers Unavailable Under Federal Fee-Shifting Statutes 10.45
        • b. Risk Multipliers Available in Federal Common Fund Cases 10.46
    • D. Preclusion of Other Employment 10.47
    • E. Undesirability of Case 10.48
    • F. Delay in Payment 10.49
      • 1. Delay Enhancements Available Under California Law 10.50
      • 2. Delay Enhancements Available Under Federal Law 10.51
    • G. Partial Success
      • 1. General Rule: Court Must Consider Degree of Success, But Has Discretion to Award Full or Reduced Fee 10.52
        • a. California Law Approach 10.53
        • b. Federal Law Approach 10.54
        • c. Some General Rules 10.55
      • 2. Factors Affecting Court's Discretion to Adjust Lodestar for Partial Success
        • a. Difference Between Relief Sought and Relief Obtained 10.56
        • b. Nature of the Rights Vindicated 10.57
        • c. Parties' Litigation Activities 10.58
        • d. Parties' Settlement Positions
          • (1) California 10.59
          • (2) Federal 10.60
        • e. Other Results Obtained 10.61
        • f. Appellate Decision That Reduces or Increases Plaintiff's Relief 10.62
      • 3. Court Can Award No Fee if Success Only Technical or De Minimis and Important Rights Not Vindicated 10.63
      • 4. Quantifying the "Partial Success" Adjustment 10.64
      • 5. Examples of Cases Applying Partial Success Rules
        • a. California Law 10.65
        • b. Federal Law 10.66
    • H. Public Service Element 10.67
    • I. Identity and Resources of Parties or Their Counsel
      • 1. Lodestar Cannot Be Diminished Because Counsel Is Publicly or Charitably Funded 10.68
      • 2. Effect of Fact That Fees Will Be Paid to Organizations Rather Than to Attorneys 10.69
      • 3. Fee Awards Against Plaintiffs: Consideration of Financial Resources 10.70
      • 4. Equal Share Among Firms 10.71
      • 5. Effect of Fact That Award Will Be Paid by Taxpayers 10.72
    • J. Other Factors 10.73

11

Claiming and Opposing Trial Court Fees

  • I. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
    • A. Pleading Attorney Fee Claims
      • 1. Prayer for Relief 11.1
      • 2. Pleading Grounds for Fee Claim 11.2
    • B. Jurisdictional Considerations 11.3
      • 1. Statutory Fees 11.4
      • 2. Arbitration Proceedings 11.5
    • C. No Entitlement to Jury Trial on Statutory or Contractual Fee Issues 11.6
    • D. Engaging Outside Counsel for Fee Motion 11.7
  • II. SETTLING FEE CLAIMS
    • A. Special Considerations 11.8
    • B. Conflicts of Interest
      • 1. Parameters of Conflict of Interest Between Client and Attorney 11.9
      • 2. Court Approval of Bifurcated Settlements 11.10
      • 3. Party's Right to Waive Attorney Fees 11.11
      • 4. Handling Conflicts of Interest 11.12
        • a. Bifurcated Settlement Discussions 11.13
        • b. Retainer Agreement 11.14
        • c. Assignment of Right to Fees 11.15
        • d. Motion to Intervene 11.16
    • C. Court Approval of Fee Settlements 11.17
  • III. INTERIM FEES
    • A. Interim Fees in Federal Courts 11.18
    • B. Interim Fees in California Courts 11.19
  • IV. JUDGMENT ON THE MERITS 11.20
    • A. Fee Award When Decision Is Appealed 11.21
    • B. Consider Attorney Fees When Drafting or Reviewing Judgment or Settlement on the Merits 11.22
    • C. Fee Award Under Federal Fee-Shifting Statutes 11.23
    • D. Timing of Fee Motion 11.24
  • V. THE FEE APPLICATION
    • A. Fees and Costs Claimed in Separate Requests 11.25
    • B. Fee Awards Generally Claimed by Noticed Motion
      • 1. Noticed Motion 11.26
      • 2. Memorandum of Costs 11.27
      • 3. Default Judgment 11.28
      • 4. Fees Based on Contract (CC §1717) 11.29
      • 5. Fees Based on Statute 11.30
      • 6. Fees Based on Other Grounds 11.31
      • 7. Exception: Fees as Damages Must Be Proved at Trial 11.32
    • C. Fee Motion Procedure Similar to Other Motions 11.33
    • D. Bifurcation of Entitlement and Amount Issues 11.34
  • VI. TIMING OF FEE MOTION IN STATE COURT
    • A. Fees for Work in Trial Court
      • 1. Fees Generally Should Be Sought Even if Merits Will Be Appealed 11.35
      • 2. Contractual and Statutory Fee Motions Must Be Filed Within Time to File Appeal 11.36
        • a. In General, File Fee Motion 60 Days After Notice of Entry of Judgment 11.37
        • b. Rule Inapplicable to Postjudgment Work 11.38
      • 3. Extensions and Stipulations 11.39
      • 4. Relief From Default 11.40
      • 5. Timing of Fee Motions Not Based on Contract or Statute 11.41
      • 6. Fees and Costs Claimed as Damages Must Be Claimed at Trial 11.42
    • B. Fees in Trial Court After Appeal 11.43
  • VII. FEDERAL COURT PROCEDURES AND TIME LIMITS 11.44
  • VIII. CLAIMS FOR STATUTORY COSTS OTHER THAN ATTORNEY FEES 11.45
  • IX. THE FEE MOTION PROCEDURE
    • A. The Initial Motion 11.46
      • 1. Entitlement to Fees Usually Based on Record, But Other Circumstances May Be Considered 11.47
      • 2. Amount of Fees Claimed Should Be Carefully Documented 11.48
      • 3. California and Federal Courts Differ on Amount of Documentation Required
        • a. Federal Courts 11.49
        • b. California Courts 11.50
      • 4. Fee Motions in Small or Uncontested Fee Matters 11.51
      • 5. Judge to Whom Fee Motion Should Be Presented 11.52
      • 6. Contents of Comprehensive Fee Motion 11.53
    • B. Discovery 11.54
      • 1. Limited to Relevant Factors 11.55
      • 2. Fee Records of Opposing Counsel 11.56
      • 3. Attorney Depositions 11.57
    • C. Opposition Papers
      • 1. Preparing Opposition 11.58
      • 2. Stating and Supporting Objections 11.59
      • 3. Including Specific Evidence 11.60
    • D. Reply 11.61
    • E. Deadlines 11.62
    • F. Hearing on Fee Application 11.63
  • X. FEE ORDER 11.64
    • A. Court Should Articulate Its Findings on Elements of Fee Award 11.65
      • 1. Federal Court Standards
        • a. Order Must Be Clear and Concise 11.66
        • b. Parameters of "Clear and Concise" 11.67
      • 2. State Courts Allow More General Findings Than Do Federal Courts 11.68
    • B. Ambiguities or Omissions in Fee Order 11.69
    • C. Court May Award Fees Directly to Attorney 11.70
    • D. Order Awarding Fees Under CCP §128.7 11.71
  • XI. PROCEDURE FOR CLAIMING FEES AS LITIGATION SANCTIONS
    • A. Fees as Sanctions Under CCP §128.7 11.72
    • B. Fees as Sanctions Under CCP §128.5 11.73
  • XII. CHECKLIST: MOTION PROCEDURE 11.74
  • XIII. FORMS AND DOCUMENTS USED IN FEE MOTIONS 11.75

12

Obtaining Fees for Appellate Services

  • I. DETERMINATION OF FEES FOR APPELLATE SERVICES
    • A. Entitlement to and Amount of Fees for Work on Appeal Generally Determined in Trial Court 12.1
    • B. Trial Court May Award Appellate Fees on Remand Even if Remittitur Is Silent on Fees
      • 1. Entitlement Based on Statute 12.2
      • 2. Entitlement Based on Contract 12.3
      • 3. Trial Court May Award Fees Regardless of How Appellate Court Allocates Costs 12.4
    • C. Situations in Which Appellate Court Determines Fee Issue Itself 12.5
      • 1. Original Writ Proceedings 12.6
      • 2. Appeals 12.7
      • 3. When Fees Based on Effect and Importance of Appellate Decision 12.8
      • 4. Sanctions for Frivolous Appeal 12.9
  • II. PROCEDURE FOR OBTAINING FEE AWARD FOR WORK ON APPEAL
    • A. Requesting Appellate Court to Set Fee
      • 1. Statement in Brief 12.10
      • 2. Fee Motion in Appellate Court 12.11
      • 3. Effect of Appellate Court Ruling on Trial Court 12.12
      • 4. Requesting Appellate Court to Set Amount of Fee Award 12.13
      • 5. Requesting Sanctions for a Frivolous Appeal 12.14
    • B. Claiming Fees for Appellate Services in Trial Court
      • 1. Appellate Fees May Be Claimed in Trial Court Regardless of Request to Appellate Court for Fees or Actual Award by Appellate Court
        • a. Fee Award Based on Statute 12.15
        • b. Fee Award Based on Contract 12.16
        • c. Fees for Writ Proceedings 12.17
        • d. Effect of Prior Appellate Court Determination 12.18
        • e. Fees for Federal Appeals 12.19
      • 2. Procedure and Timing of Application for Appellate Fees in Trial Court
        • a. Claiming Appellate Fees When Judgment Is Affirmed 12.20
        • b. Claiming Appellate Fees When There Will Be a New Final Judgment 12.21
        • c. Stipulations and Extensions 12.22
        • d. Possible Disqualification of Judge Who Issued Initial Fee Order 12.23
        • e. Statutory Appellate Costs 12.24
        • f. When Appeal Is Abandoned 12.25
      • 3. Appellate Review of Trial Court Orders 12.26
    • C. Federal Appeals 12.27

13

Attorney Fees Awarded for Administrative Proceedings

  • I. ATTORNEY FEES MAY BE AWARDED FOR WORK PERFORMED IN ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS 13.1
  • II. FEE AWARDS FOR ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS RESOLVED WITHOUT JUDICIAL ACTION
    • A. Statutory Bases for Fee Awards in Administrative Proceedings That Are Not Intertwined With Litigation
      • 1. California Law 13.2
      • 2. Federal Law 13.3
    • B. Equitable Bases for Fee Awards in Administrative Proceedings That Are Not Intertwined With Litigation 13.4
    • C. Fee Awards in Particular Administrative Settings
      • 1. Proceedings Before Public Utilities Commission 13.5
      • 2. Proceedings Before Insurance Commissioner 13.6
      • 3. Proceedings Before Fair Employment and Housing Commission 13.7
      • 4. Proceedings Before Commission on Professional Competence 13.8
      • 5. Licensee Disciplinary Proceedings 13.9
      • 6. Proceedings Under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act
        • a. When Attorney Fees Are Recoverable Under the IDEA 13.10
        • b. Procedure to Recover IDEA Fees 13.11
        • c. Determining the Amount of Fees Recoverable Under the IDEA
          • (1) No Fees for Attorney-Parent 13.12
          • (2) No Expert-Consultant Fees 13.13
      • 7. Proceedings Under Local Ordinances Authorizing Fee Awards 13.14
      • 8. Federal Administrative Proceedings 13.15
  • III. FEE AWARDS FOR WORK PERFORMED IN ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS IN CONJUNCTION WITH JUDICIAL ACTION
    • A. Fee Awards for Administrative Proceedings Before Litigation
      • 1. California Courts 13.16
      • 2. Federal Courts
        • a. Standard When Administrative Proceedings Are a Prerequisite to Court Action 13.17
        • b. Standard When Administrative Proceedings Are Optional 13.18
    • B. Fee Awards for Administrative Proceedings That Are Intertwined With Litigation
      • 1. California Courts 13.19
      • 2. Federal Courts 13.20
  • IV. WHO MAY RECOVER ADMINISTRATIVE FEES 13.21

14

Procedures for Claiming and Opposing Fees for Work in Arbitration

  • I. AVAILABILITY OF FEE AWARDS IN ARBITRATION
    • A. Fees Generally Available in Arbitration as in Litigation 14.1
    • B. Terms of Arbitration Agreement Control 14.2
    • C. Availability of Specific Types of Fees
      • 1. Statutory Fees 14.3
      • 2. Contract-Based Fees 14.4
      • 3. Fees Based on Equitable Doctrines 14.5
      • 4. Fees as Sanctions 14.6
    • D. Standards for Determining Fee Awards in Arbitration Proceedings
      • 1. Standards in Arbitration Generally the Same as in Judicial Proceedings 14.7
      • 2. Arbitrators Have Far Greater Discretion to Decide Fee Issues 14.8
      • 3. Code of Civil Procedure §998 Applies to Arbitrations 14.9
  • II. PROCEDURE FOR OBTAINING FEE AWARDS IN ARBITRATIONS
    • A. Fee Claims Ordinarily Decided by Arbitrator
      • 1. General Rule 14.10
      • 2. Exceptions 14.11
    • B. Applicable Procedures 14.12
    • C. Arbitrator's Fee Award 14.13
  • III. JUDICIAL REVIEW OF ARBITRATOR FEE AWARDS
    • A. Proceedings to Vacate Arbitrator's Award
      • 1. Vacating Award 14.14
      • 2. Grounds for Vacating Award 14.15
      • 3. Correcting Award 14.16
    • B. Proceedings to Confirm Arbitrator's Award 14.17
  • IV. OBTAINING FEES FOR PRE-ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS
    • A. Work Performed in Preparation for Arbitration 14.18
    • B. Compensability of Time Spent on Motions to Compel Arbitration 14.19
      • 1. Cases Awarding Fees 14.20
      • 2. Cases Denying Fees 14.21
      • 3. Actions to Compel Arbitration Under Collective Bargaining Agreements 14.22
  • V. OBTAINING FEES FOR POST-ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS 14.23

15

Collecting Fee Awards

  • I. FEE AWARDS COLLECTIBLE AS MONEY JUDGMENTS 15.1
  • II. COLLECTING FROM PRIVATE DEFENDANTS 15.2
  • III. COLLECTING FROM GOVERNMENT DEFENDANTS 15.3
    • A. Collecting From State of California 15.4
      • 1. Former Budget Act Restrictions 15.5
      • 2. No Current Restrictions 15.6
    • B. Collecting From Local Public Entities 15.7
    • C. Collecting Federal Court Fee Awards 15.8
  • IV. ADDING PARTIES FOR COLLECTION 15.9
  • V. RECOVERY OF FEE AWARD PENDING APPEAL
    • A. California Courts 15.10
      • 1. Posting an Undertaking 15.11
      • 2. Amount of Undertaking 15.12
    • B. Federal Courts 15.13
    • C. Undisputed Sums May Be Recovered Pending Appeal 15.14
  • VI. FEES MAY BE RECOVERED FOR COLLECTION EFFORTS 15.15

16

Appellate Review of Fee Orders

  • I. APPEAL OF FEE AWARD
    • A. Orders to Pay Attorney Fees Separately Appealable
      • 1. Postjudgment Fee Orders 16.1
      • 2. Prejudgment Fee Orders 16.2
      • 3. Interim Fee Awards in Statutory Fee-Shifting Cases 16.3
      • 4. Sanctions Orders 16.4
      • 5. Sanctions Order Against Attorney Who Has Substituted Out of Case 16.5
      • 6. Judgments or Orders That Award Fees But Do Not Quantify the Amount 16.6
      • 7. Judgments That Award Costs of Suit 16.7
      • 8. Appeal of Entitlement Issue Only 16.8
      • 9. Appeals That Challenge Fee Award Only on Grounds That Merits Judgment Should Be Reversed 16.9
    • B. Order Denying Attorney Fees Also Appealable 16.10
    • C. Fee Motion Does Not Toll Time to Appeal Merits Judgment 16.11
    • D. Standing to Appeal Fee Order 16.12
    • E. Timing of Fee Appeal 16.13
    • F. Form of Fee Appeal 16.14
    • G. Collection of Fees Pending Appeal 16.15
    • H. Federal Court Order to Pay Fees 16.16
  • II. STANDARD OF REVIEW ON APPEAL
    • A. Appeal of Ruling on Entitlement to Fee Award
      • 1. Entitlement to Fees Generally Reviewed for Abuse of Discretion 16.17
        • a. Reviewing Contract Fee Awards 16.18
        • b. Reviewing Arbitration Fee Awards 16.19
        • c. Other Specific Proceedings 16.20
      • 2. Entitlement Based on Published Opinion 16.21
      • 3. Entitlement Based on Multiple Grounds 16.22
    • B. Appeal of Amount of Fee Award
      • 1. Determinations of Amount of Fees Given Particularly Deferential Review 16.23
      • 2. Amount Determinations May Be Reversed for Abuse of Discretion 16.24
      • 3. Fee Award Challenged as Excessive 16.25
        • a. Fee Award Found Not Excessive 16.26
        • b. Fee Award Found Excessive 16.27
        • c. Mixed Results 16.28
      • 4. Fee Award Challenged as Inadequate 16.29
        • a. Inadequacy Challenge Upheld 16.30
        • b. Inadequacy Challenge Rejected 16.31

17

Forms

  • I. JUDICIAL COUNCIL FORM MC-010: MEMORANDUM OF COSTS (SUMMARY) 17.1
  • II. CHART: ATTORNEY TIME RECORD 17.2
  • III. SAMPLE FORM: NOTICE OF MOTION FOR AWARD OF REASONABLE ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS 17.3
  • IV. SAMPLE FORM: MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR AWARD OF REASONABLE ATTORNEY FEES 17.4
  • V. SAMPLE FORM: DECLARATION IN SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR AWARD OF REASONABLE ATTORNEY FEES 17.5
  • VI. SAMPLE FORM: DECLARATION IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR AWARD OF REASONABLE ATTORNEY FEES 17.6
  • VII. SAMPLE FORM: SUPPLEMENTAL DECLARATION IN SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR AWARD OF REASONABLE ATTORNEY FEES 17.7
  • VIII. SAMPLE FORM: REPLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR AWARD OF REASONABLE ATTORNEY FEES 17.8
  • IX. SAMPLE FORM: ORDER AWARDING ATTORNEY FEES 17.9
  • X. SAMPLE FORM: ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND EXPENSES 17.10
  • XI. SAMPLE FORM: STIPULATION FOR AWARD OF ATTORNEY FEES; [PROPOSED] ORDER AWARDING ATTORNEY FEES 17.11
  • XII. SAMPLE FORM: STATEMENT OF DECISION 17.12

 

CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY FEE AWARDS

(3d Edition)

March 2017

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

File Name

Book Section

Title

CH01

Chapter 1

Recovery of Attorney Fees: An Overview

01-025

§1.25

Sample Clause Relating to Taxation of Fee Award

CH11

Chapter 11

Claiming and Opposing Trial Court Fees

11-074

§11.74

Checklist: Motion Procedure

CH17

Chapter 17

Forms

17-002

§17.2

Chart: Attorney Time Record

17-003

§17.3

Sample Form: Notice of Motion for Award of Reasonable Attorney Fees and Costs

17-004

§17.4

Sample Form: Memorandum in Support of Petitioner’s Motion for Award of Reasonable Attorney Fees

17-005

§17.5

Sample Form: Declaration in Support of Motion for Award of Reasonable Attorney Fees

17-006

§17.6

Sample Form: Declaration in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Award of Reasonable Attorney Fees

17-007

§17.7

Sample Form: Supplemental Declaration in Support of Motion for Award of Reasonable Attorney Fees

17-008

§17.8

Sample Form: Reply Memorandum in Support of Petitioner’s Motion for Award of Reasonable Attorney Fees

17-009

§17.9

Sample Form: Order Awarding Attorney Fees

17-010

§17.10

Sample Form: Order Granting in Part Plaintiffs’ Motion for Attorney Fees and Expenses

17-011

§17.11

Sample Form: Stipulation for Award of Attorney Fees; [Proposed] Order Awarding Attorney Fees

17-012

§17.12

Sample Form: Statement of Decision

 

Selected Developments

March 2017 Update

Eligibility and Entitlement to Fees

In DeSaulles v Community Hosp. of Monterey Peninsula (2016) 62 C4th 1140, the California Supreme Court held that a plaintiff who dismisses the action in exchange for the defendant's payment of a monetary settlement is the prevailing party for purposes of an award of costs under CCP §1032(a)(4), unless the parties' settlement agreement provides for costs. See §2.47.

In Charton v Harkey (2016) 247 CA4th 730, 740, the court held that the "unity of interest" exception, which denied CCP §1032 costs to dismissed defendants who had a unity of interest with nonprevailing defendants, no longer exists; and the trial court erred in awarding a dismissed defendant a percentage of the costs incurred, rather than determining what costs were reasonably necessary. See §2.47.

In Wood v Burwell (9th Cir) 837 F3d 969, the Ninth Circuit held that a plaintiff who obtains a remand requiring the defendant agency to consider statutorily required factors is the prevailing party, even if the agency action is re-approved on remand. See §2.101.

Fee-Shifting Statutes

In Caldecott v Superior Court (2015) 243 CA4th 212, 227, the court held that a plaintiff prevails under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) (Govt C §§6250–6276.48) when filing the action results in defendant releasing a copy of a previously withheld document," even if the plaintiff already possesses the document. See §3.87.

In Rancho Mirage Country Club Homeowners Ass'n v Hazelbaker (2016) 2 CA5th 252, the court upheld a fee award under the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act (CC 5975(c)) for enforcing a mediation agreement entered into under the Act. See §3.103.

In Sese v Wells Fargo Bank N.A. (2016) 2 CA5th 710, the court refused to review a trial court's denial of fees to a borrower who won a preliminary injunction under the California Homeowner Bill of Rights (CC §2924.12), holding that the order denying the fee motion was a nonappealable interlocutory order. See §3.103.

In Schmidt v California Highway Patrol (2016) 1 CA5th 1287, the court held that an action requiring the CHP to comply with statutes regarding deletion of arrest records conferred a significant public benefit meriting a fee award under CCP §1021.5. See §3.54.

Fee Awards Based on Contractual Fee Clauses

In GoTek Energy, Inc. v SoCal IP Law Group, LLP (2016) 3 CA5th 1240, the court held that a legal malpractice action was a dispute between the parties "relating to" their contract because a malpractice action sounds in both tort and contract. See §4.26.

In Hjelm v Prometheus Real Estate Group (2016) 3 CA5th 1155, the court held that the term "on a contract" should be liberally construed: as long as the action "involves" a contract, it is "on the contract" within the meaning of CC §1717. See §4.50.

Civil Code §1717(b)(2)'s prohibition against fees in cases that are voluntarily dismissed did not preclude a fee award to a tenant after the landlord dismissed an unlawful detainer action, given that the tenant sought prevailing party fees under a city ordinance. See Intelligent Inv. Corp. v Gonzales (2016) 1 CA5th Supp 1 in §4.22.

Attorney Fees Awarded as Sanctions

Amending the complaint after a CCP §128.7 motion is filed does not prevent imposition of sanctions relating to the filing of the original complaint. Bucur v Ahmad (2016) 244 CA4th 175. See §§6.14, 6.26.

Attorney Fees Awarded as Damages

In Nickerson v Stonebridge Life Ins. Co. (2016) 63 C4th 363, 377, the California Supreme Court held that an award of Brandt fees is properly included as compensatory damages for purposes of calculating the ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, whether the fees are awarded by the jury or by the trial court after the jury has rendered its verdict. See §7.9.

Methods of Fee Calculation

In Laffitte v Robert Half Int'l, Inc. (2016) 1 C5th 480, the California Supreme Court held that a percentage-of-the-recovery calculation with a lodestar cross-check is permitted in common fund cases. The opinion contains a thorough and scholarly discussion of the competing methods for determining common fund fee awards. See chaps 8–10.

In Yamada v Nobel Biocare Holding AG (9th Cir 2016) 825 F3d 536, a consumer class action, the Ninth Circuit held that a cross-check against the lodestar was not required when the monetary value of the settlement was difficult to quantify. See §8.9.

Determining the Lodestar

Cases discussing compensable litigation activities have been added to the chapter, e.g., Dragu v Motion Picture Indus. Health Plan (ND Cal 2016) 159 F Supp 3d 1121 (preparing for hearings; reviewing notices from court and editing briefs; time spent on unsuccessful opposition to motion to dismiss), MacDonald v Ford Motor Co. (ND Cal, May 31, 2016, No. 13-cv-02988-JST) 2016 US Dist Lexis 70809 (pre-filing communications with potential plaintiffs; drafting pleadings; discovery related to fee motions; intra-office conferencing), and Latoya A. v San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist. (ND Cal, Jan. 28, 2016, No. 3:15-cv-04311-LB) 2016 US Dist Lexis 11048 (discussing paralegal versus clerical tasks). See §§9.6–9.30, 9.72–9.77, 9.100. The chapter has also been updated with cases discussing methods of demonstrating market rates. See §9.121.

In Goglin v BMW of N. Am., LLC (2016) 4 CA5th 462 and Gonzales v City of San Jose (ND Cal, May 26, 2016, No. 13-cv-00695-BLF) 2016 US Dist Lexis 69390, the court of appeal and district court included as compensable litigation activities the time counsel spent preparing for trial while attempting to settle the case. See §9.9.

In Citizens for Ceres v City of Ceres (2016) 3 CA5th 237, the court held that attorney and paralegal work reasonably necessary to prepare the administrative record in CEQA and administrative mandamus actions is recoverable by the prevailing party at market rates. In No Toxic Air, Inc. v Lehigh Southwest Cement Co. (2016) 1 CA5th 1136, the court held that the same rule applies to non-CEQA actions brought under CCP §1094.5. See §9.9.

In Kerkeles v City of San Jose (2015) 243 CA4th 88, 103, a civil rights case, the trial court's determination that plaintiff's attorneys "expended far more time than a reasonable attorney could ever bill a paying client for" could not, without a clear and specific explanation, support a 50 percent reduction in compensable hours. See §9.4.

In a common fund case involving multiple teams of attorneys on both sides, the task of determining the fee award for class counsel was discussed in detail in In re Cathode Ray Tube Antitrust Litig. (ND Cal, Jan. 28, 2016, No. 3:07-cv-5944 JST, MDL No. 1917) 2016 US Dist Lexis 24951, adopted in Cathode Ray Tube Antitrust Litig. (ND Cal, Aug. 3, 2016, No. C-07-5944 JST) 2016 US Dist Lexis 102408. The opinion sets out the factors and calculations involved in determining the billing rates and hours reasonably claimed. See §§9.88, 9.110, 9.11.

Adjusting the Lodestar

In Kelly v Wengler (9th Cir 2016) 822 F3d 1085, the Ninth Circuit held that, although the Prison Litigation Reform Act capped hourly rates, a lodestar multiplier was permitted based on counsel's superior performance, limited resources, commitment of time to the case, extreme time pressure, exceptional results, and the need to attract attorneys to PLRA cases. See §10.36.

In Bravo v City of Santa Maria (9th Cir 2016) 810 F3d 659, the Ninth Circuit held that damages recovered from settling defendants must also be considered when assessing the success achieved, as long as the underlying claims were related. See §10.55.

Claiming and Opposing Fees

In Robinson v U-Haul Co. of Cal. (2016) 4 CA5th 304, a plaintiff who missed the 60-day deadline to file a motion for attorney fees was excused for "good cause" under Cal Rules of Ct 3.1702(d), based on honest mistake of law in misunderstanding trial court's prior rulings, when the fee opponent suffered no prejudice as a result. See §11.40.

Obtaining Fees for Appellate Services

In Hiken v Department of Defense (9th Cir 2016) 836 F3d 1037, the court held that successful appellants were entitled to attorney fees for obtaining a remand of the district court's fee award, regardless of whether or not the remand resulted in a higher fee. See §12.27.

Attorney Fees Awarded for Administrative Proceedings

In Shirrod v Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (9th Cir 2015) 809 F3d 1082, the Ninth Circuit discussed how to define the "relevant community" when setting hourly rates for claimant representation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. See §§9.106, 9.109.

Fees for Work in Arbitration

In Ling v P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc. (2016) 245 CA4th 1242, a wage and benefits case, an arbitrator's fee award to a defendant employer was vacated as contrary to public policy expressed in the one-way fee-shifting provision in Lab C §1194. See §14.14.

Collecting Fee Awards

In Hearn Pacific Corp. v Second Generation Roofing, Inc. (2016) 247 CA4th 117, the court held that it was an abuse of discretion not to amend a fee order to add the real party in interest who elected under CCP §368.5 to allow the action to continue in the name of the original party. See §15.9.

About the Author

RICHARD M. PEARL maintains a civil litigation and appellate practice in Berkeley, focusing on matters involving court-awarded attorney fees in both the state and federal trial and appellate courts. He has successfully handled numerous cases and is widely consulted throughout the state. He was also the principal author of both the first and second editions of this publication. An adjunct professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, Mr. Pearl brings both theoretical and practical expertise to this increasingly complex area of law.

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