California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division
RANCHO MIRAGE COUNTRY CLUB HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff and Respondent,
THOMAS B. HAZELBAKER, Individually and as Co-Trustee, etc. et al., Defendants and Appellants.
from the Superior Court of Riverside County. No. PSC1300860,
John G. Evans, Judge.
Matthew T. Ward for Defendants and Appellants.
Grinnell & Howell and Anne L. Rauch for Plaintiff and
and appellants Thomas B. Hazelbaker and Lynn G. Hazelbaker
own, through their family trust, a condominium in the Rancho
Mirage Country Club development. Defendants made improvements
to an exterior patio, which plaintiff and respondent Rancho
Mirage Country Club Homeowners Association (Association)
contended were in violation of the applicable covenants,
conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). The parties mediated
the dispute pursuant to the Davis-Stirling Common Interest
Development Act (Davis-Stirling Act or the Act), codified at
sections 4000-6150 of the Civil Code (formerly sections
1350-1376). The mediation resulted in a written agreement.
Subsequently, the Association filed the present lawsuit,
alleging that defendants had failed to comply with their
obligations under the mediation agreement to modify the
property in certain ways.
the lawsuit was pending, defendants made modifications to the
patio to the satisfaction of the Association. Nevertheless,
the parties could not reach agreement regarding attorney
fees, which the Association asserted it was entitled to
receive as the prevailing party.
Association filed a motion for attorney fees and costs,
seeking an award of $31, 970 in attorney fees and $572 in
costs. The trial court granted the motion in part, awarding
the Association $18, 991 in attorney fees and $572 in costs.
Defendants argue on appeal that the trial court’s
award, as well as its subsequent denial of a motion to
reconsider the issue, are erroneous in various
reasons discussed below, we affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
November 2011, defendants applied for and received approval
from the Association’s architectural committee to make
certain improvements to the patio area of their property.
Subsequently, however, the Association contended that
defendants had made changes that exceeded the scope of the
approval, and which would not have been approved had they
been included in defendants’ November 2011 application.
19, 2012, the Association sent defendants a request for
alternative dispute resolution pursuant to former section
1369.510 et seq., identifying the disputed improvements and
proposing that the parties mediate the issue. Defendants
accepted the proposal, and a mediation was held on April 8,
2013. A “Memorandum of Agreement in Mediation”
dated April 9, 2013, was reached, signed by two
representatives of the Association, its counsel, and Thomas
Hazelbaker (but not Lynn Hazelbaker). The agreement called
for defendants to make certain modifications to the patio, in
accordance with a plan newly approved by the Association;
specifically, to install three openings, each 36 inches wide
and 18 inches high, in a side wall of the patio referred to
as a “television partition” in the agreement, and
to use a specific color and fabric for the exterior side of
drapery. The agreement provided for the modifications to be
completed within 60 days from the date of the agreement. It
also provided for a special assessment on defendants’
property to pay a portion of the Association’s attorney
fees incurred to that point, and included a prevailing party
attorney fees clause with respect to any subsequent legal
action “pertaining to the enforcement of or arising out
of” the agreement.
modifications described in the mediation agreement were not
completed within 60 days. The parties each blame the other
for that circumstance.
September 4, 2013, the Association filed the present lawsuit,
asserting two causes of action: (1) for specific performance
of the mediation agreement, and (2) for declaratory relief.
Subsequently, the parties reached agreement regarding
modifications to the property, slightly different from those
agreed to in mediation; instead of three 36-inch-wide
openings, two openings of 21 inches, separated by a third
opening 52 inches wide, were installed in the wall, and a
different fabric than the one specified in the mediation
agreement was used for the drapery. The modifications were
completed by defendants in September 2014. The parties could
not reach a complete settlement, however, because they
continued to disagree about who should bear the costs of the
October 15, 2014, the Association filed a motion seeking
attorney fees and costs pursuant to section 5975, subdivision
(c). The motion sought $31, 970 in attorney fees, plus $572
in costs. On October 30, 2014, the hearing of the matter,
initially set for November 10, 2014, was continued to
November 25, 2014, on the court’s own motion.
Defendants filed their opposition to the motion on November
November 25, 2014 hearing on the motion, the trial court
noted that defendants’ “paperwork was not timely
and the Court did not consider it.” The court further
observed that the bills submitted by the Association in
support of its motion were heavily redacted, sometimes to the
point where it could not “tell what’s going
on.” The court declined to review unredacted bills in
camera, and further remarked that “if I can’t
tell what’s going on, I’m not awarding those
fees.” At the conclusion of the hearing, the court took
the matter under submission.
December 2, 2014, the trial court issued a minute order
granting the Association’s motion, but awarding less
than the requested amount; $18, 991 in attorney fees, plus
$572 in costs. The trial court denied the Association’s
motion with respect to fees incurred prior to the mediation,
awarding $3, 888.50 in “[p]ost mediation fees”
incurred by one law firm on behalf of the Association
“starting 60 days post mediation, ” and $15,
102.50 in “litigation fees” incurred by another
law firm. With respect to the “[p]ost mediation fees,
” the court commented as follows: “The court had
great difficulty determining the nature of the billings
because so much information was redacted from the billings.
All doubts were resolved in favor of the homeowner.”
was entered in favor of the Association on December 17, 2014,
and on January 14, 2015, a notice of entry of judgment was
filed. On January 21, 2015, defendants filed a motion for
reconsideration of the trial court’s order regarding
fees and costs. On February 27, 2015, after a hearing, the
trial court denied the motion as untimely, further noting
that the motion “did not set forth any new facts, law,
or a chance in circumstances.”
Association’s Lawsuit Is an “Action to Enforce
the Governing ...