Calif. Team Secures Appellate Affirmance in Fee Dispute

Los Angeles Partner Alexander Harwin and Los Angeles Appellate Partner Caroline Chan recently persuaded a California appellate court to affirm an award of attorneys’ fees while representing a homeowners association in a contract and foreclosure dispute.

The plaintiffs, who formerly owned a unit within a common interest development, sued the homeowners association in state court for breach of contract, violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, wrongful foreclosure, and fraud. The plaintiffs filed a separate lawsuit in federal court.

On the eve of the hearing of a demurrer and motion to strike the operative complaint, the plaintiffs dismissed their state court action for the purported purpose of litigating the same claims in federal court. We moved for attorneys’ fees on behalf of the homeowners association under the Davis-Stirling Act, which governs condominiums and planned unit development communities and provides for attorneys’ fees for the prevailing party. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that, under these circumstances, the homeowners association was not the prevailing party. The appellate court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument and affirmed the five-figure fee award.

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