CALG’s Johanna Schiavoni and Jennifer Teaford won a complete reversal in a published opinion by the California Court of Appeal’s First District last week.  

In Shao Yan Chen et al. v. Valstock Ventures LLC, et al., CALG represented the owners of real property in an appeal from an interim attorney’s fee award. At an early stage of the case, the trial court adjudicated a claim for declaratory relief to determine which of two leases applied. After siding with the tenants as to their preferred lease, the court issued an interim attorney’s fee award of $1.1 million based on that lease’s contractual attorney’s fee provision — even though five substantive causes of action remained to be adjudicated at trial, and no final or appealable judgment yet existed. The court entered the fee award, and the plaintiffs sought to enforce it immediately.   

The property owners retained CALG and appealed the fee award, arguing it was premature and not authorized by California’s attorney’s fee statute. In this case of first impression, the Court of Appeal agreed in full with CALG’s arguments, finding the trial court erred by issuing an enforceable fee award before a final judgment in the entire case.

The Court reversed, vacated the award in its entirety, and remanded for further proceedings.

You can read the full opinion here: