Heppler v. J. M. Peters Co – Case Brief Summary (California)

In Heppler v. J. M. Peters Co. (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 1265, the plaintiffs sued a developer, who cross-complained against four subcontractors for construction defects. The trial court awarded plaintiffs all of their requested attorney fees against one subcontractor, Martin Roofing Company, Inc., pursuant to a contract provision. (Id. at p. 1272.)

When reversing, the Court of Appeal noted that this subcontractor's "part of the case could have been tried in considerably less time than seven weeks had the trial not taken up issues that involved the other nonsettling subcontractors." (Id. at p. 1297.)

The appellate court emphasized that it would be "eminently unfair to tag" this one subcontractor with all of the plaintiffs' attorney fees for the entire seven-week trial. (Ibid.)

The court concluded that not all of the issues involving this one subcontractor's case "were integrally associated with the other issues in the case; at the very least, some of them could have been severed and isolated for purposes of the attorney fees award. Certainly, there were multiple days of trial that were devoted exclusively to soil issues." (Ibid.)