United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER DENYING MAGNUM AVIATION INC.'S MOTION FOR
ATTORNEYS' FEES RE: DKT. NO. 42
VIRGINIA K. DEMARCHI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff Ronald Fish sued defendants Magnum Aviation, Inc.
(“Magnum”) and Santa Clara County (“the
County”) for violation of his right to just
compensation for the taking of his property. Dkt. No. 1 at 1.
Specifically, he sought a declaratory judgment that
defendants' anticipated seizure of his private airplane
hangars pursuant to certain sublease agreements is an
unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution and “Section 2” of the California
Constitution. Id. He also sought a declaratory
judgment that the reversion clause in his subleases with
Magnum violates the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act
(“CLRA”), Cal. Civ. Code § 1770(19), because
the clause is unconstitutional and unconscionable.
Id. Mr. Fish sought an injunction barring defendants
from taking possession of his hangars once his sublease
expires or, in the alternative, requiring defendants to
compensate him for the hangars. Id.
Court granted Magnum's motion to dismiss with prejudice
and without leave to amend. Dkt. No. 28. Magnum now moves for
an award of $15, 785.00 in attorneys' fees incurred in
connection with its successful motion to dismiss, pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1988(b) and California Civil Code §
1780(e). Dkt. No. 42. The Court heard oral argument on
Magnum's fees motion on June 18, 2019. Dkt. No. 46.
considered the parties' motion papers and arguments made
at the hearing, the Court denies Magnum's motion.
Mr. Fish's Claims Against Magnum
Fish is a retired attorney and airplane owner who resides in
Los Gatos, California. Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 1; see also
Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 23. Magnum is the fixed base operator of
the South Santa Clara County Airport in San Martin,
California. See Id. ¶¶ 8, 10, Ex. C at 1;
see also Dkt. No. 15 at 3. Mr. Fish owns two
portable airplane hangars at the airport. Dkt. No. 1 ¶
1. The hangars sit on land that Mr. Fish subleases from
Magnum, who in turn leases the land from the County.
Id. ¶¶ 1-3. The County owns the land on
which the airport is located. Id. ¶ 2.
facts alleged in Mr. Fish's complaint are described in
detail in the Court's order dismissing Mr. Fish's
claims. Dkt. No. 28. For purposes of Magnum's motion for
attorneys' fees, the salient facts are as follows:
and the County are parties to a master lease agreement which
contains the following reversion clause: “Upon
expiration of this lease agreement, Lessee agrees to
immediately surrender possession of the premises and any
improvements thereon to Lessor. . . . All improvements shall
become the property of Lessor free and clear of all liens and
encumbrances.” Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 3, 10-11. Mr.
Fish (or his law corporation) and Magnum are parties to
sublease agreements, which state in relevant part:
Upon the expiration of this Lease Agreement [on December 11,
2020], Lessee agrees to immediately surrender possession of
the Hangar Space and any improvements thereon to Lessor.
However, Lessee may elect to remove the Hangar from the
Hangar Space prior to the expiration of the term of this
Lease. . . . All improvements shall become the property of
the Lessor, free and clear of all liens and encumbrances
should the Lessee elect not to, nor cause removal of the
Improvement (the Hangar.) prior to the expiration of the
Id. ¶¶ 10-12, Ex. C at 1 ¶ 2. The
sublease agreements include a reversion clause similar to the
one in the master lease agreement: “All and any
alterations, improvement or modification to the Hangar Ground
Space, including the Hangar structure, shall become
Lessor's property and shall remain on the Hangar Ground
Space at the expiration of this agreement, without
compensation, remuneration or payment to the Lessee.”
Id. at 3 ¶ 10.
master lease between the County and Magnum expires on
December 11, 2020, and all of the subleases-including Mr.
Fish's-expire on that same day. Now that the expiration
date draws near, Mr. Fish wishes to avoid having to move his
hangars and to prevent Magnum and the County from seizing
possession of them without compensating him for their value.
Id. ¶¶ 20, 22-23, 25-26. Mr. Fish filed
this action on November 2, 2018. Id. ¶ 34;
see generally Dkt. No. 1.
Magnum's Motion to Dismiss
November 30, 2018, counsel for Magnum contacted Mr. Fish by
telephone. Dkt. No. 43 ¶ 3. The details of the
conversation are disputed, but for purposes of this motion,
the Court assumes that Magnum did not advise Mr. Fish that it
intended to seek dismissal of the ...