Friday, May 26, 2017

Venue Victor Is No Prevailing Party

DisputeSuite.com v. Scoreinc.com, No. S226652 (Cal. Apr. 4, 2017)

The Supreme Court granted review of this case, which I wrote about back in 2015. The issue is whether a defendant can get an award of contractual attorneys’ fees under Civil Code § 1717 as a prevailing party, when what it prevailed upon was a motion to dismiss for forum non-conveniens. The Court of Appeal said the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion for saying no. Generally, it is reasonable to find that such an award would be premature because the merits of the case would be litigated elsewhere.

The Supreme Court basically agrees. Under its prior precedent, a defendant that wins a complete victory is entitled to a § 1717 award as a matter of law. See Hsu v. Abbara, 9 Cal. 4th 863 (1995). But winning an FNC motion isn’t a complete victory, just a interim decision about where a case should be brought. While it might be possible that an FNC dismissal could completely kill off a claim, that wasn’t the case here. So the Court of Appeal was correct to hold that there was no abuse of discretion in denying a § 1717 award.

Court of Appeal affirmed.

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