Both teams winning may be common in AYSO or Little League, but in litigation we expect there to be only one prevailing party (although sometimes, there is no winner). A recent Court of Appeal decision alters that expectation by holding that when a plaintiffs prevails on a statutory claim and the defendant prevails on another statutory claim, both sides are entitled to their attorneys’ fees.
By providing that the prevailing party under one statute is entitled to fees, and that a different prevailing party under another statute is entitled to fees, the Legislature expressed an intent that there can be two different prevailing parties under separate statutes in the same action.
Under the “American Rule,” each side in litigation pays its own attorneys unless a statute or contract states that the prevailing party may recover his or her fees. In Sharif, the plaintiff filed claims for unpaid overtime and wages, and for violation of the Equal Pay Act. After trial, the jury found for plaintiff on the Equal Pay Act claim and for the defendant on the unpaid overtime and wages claims.
Under separate statutes, both the Equal Pay Act and unpaid wages claims provide for an award of fees to the prevailing party. Each side applied for their attorneys’ fees after trial. The trial court awarded fees to each side on its prevailing claims, which resulted in an offset and net award of $3,709.19 to the plaintiff.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the dual award of fees, and offset, even though the jury made a net monetary to plaintiff.
[A] net monetary award to a party does not determine the prevailing party when there are two fee shifting statutes involved in one action.
Sharif v. Mehusa, Inc., Case No. B255578 (Cal. Court of Appeal Oct. 14, 2015).
If you have questions or need information regarding a statutory or contract claim, or the effect of an attorneys’ fees provision, contact Kristopher Diulio at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or call the experienced attorneys at Ford & Diulio PC at 714-384-5540.