Attorney Fees Request Under a Provision of a Lease Agreement in California

In Chinn v. KMR Property Management (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 175, the plaintiff brought a personal injury action against the manager, management company (KMR), and owner (CPLP) of the apartment complex where the plaintiff was injured. (Id. at p. 180.) The plaintiff accepted KMR and CPLP's section 998 offer to settle for $23,500, and in exchange, she dismissed the action. (Chinn, supra, at p. 181.) Thereafter, she filed a memorandum of costs and requested attorney fees under a provision of her lease agreement. As against KMR and CPLP, the court found Chinn was the prevailing party with a net monetary recovery but denied her request for contractual attorney fees. (Ibid.) On Chinn's appeal, the court stated that "construing the term 'net monetary recovery' in context . . . the Legislature did not intend to include settlement proceeds received by a plaintiff in exchange for a dismissal in favor of the defendant." (Id. at p. 188;.) The Chinn court disagreed with the On-Line Power, Inc. v. Mazur (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 1079 dicta discussed above and held that section 1032 does not contemplate that both parties could qualify as prevailing parties. (Chinn, supra, at p. 189.)