California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division
DON R. HEMPHILL, Plaintiff and Appellant,
WRIGHT FAMILY, LLC, et al., Defendants and Respondents.
APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court No. 37-2012-00054705- CU-PO-NC of San Diego County, Robert P. Dahlquist, Judge.
Skolnick Law Group, Suzanne C. Skolnick; Kohn Law Office and Russell S. Kohn for Plaintiff and Appellant.
Wolfe & Wyman, Gregg L. Vorwerck and David C. Olson for Defendants and Respondents.
In this action, we interpret an attorney fee provision in a lease agreement which allows the prevailing party in any action arising out of the homeowner's tenancy, the agreement, or the provisions of the Mobilehome Residency Law (Civ. Code, § 798 et seq.) to recover reasonable expenses including attorney fees and costs. We conclude that a tenant's fall while walking across a common area lawn arose out of the homeowner's tenancy and entitled him to an award of attorney fees as the prevailing party in the action. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's order denying a fee award and remand the matter for further proceedings.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Wright Family, LLC, doing business as Roadrunner Club (Roadrunner Club) is about a 200 acre manufactured home park consisting of home sites, a golf course, common areas and a large "greenbelt" common area lawn. Don R. Hemphill purchased a home at the park and leased the space under a written lease agreement with Roadrunner Club. Roadrunner Club is required to maintain the common area lawns, which are open to residents 24 hours per day, seven days a week. While on the lawn area near his home, Hemphill stepped into a sunken and uncovered drainage hole causing him to fall and suffer serious injuries.
Hemphill sued Roadrunner Club alleging negligence and premises liability on the property in which Hemphill was a tenant under the lease agreement. After being instructed with CACI No. 1006 regarding a landlord's duty, a jury returned a special verdict in favor of Hemphill and awarded him damages of $311, 899.67. Following trial, Hemphill moved for an award of attorney fees under his lease agreement with Roadrunner Club, which allows the prevailing party to recover fees if the action arose out of, among other things, the homeowner's tenancy. The trial court denied the motion. Hemphill timely appealed.
Hemphill argues the trial court erred in denying his attorney fees motion because the action arose out of his tenancy and the Mobilehome Residency Law. We conclude that the action arose out of Hemphill's tenancy. Accordingly, we need not address Hemphill's alternative argument that the action arose out of the Mobilehome Residency Law.
Generally, each party to litigation must bear its own attorney fees, unless otherwise provided by statute or ...