Friday, November 18, 2011

Salehi v. Surfside III Condominium Owner's Ass'n (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 14, 2011)

This is why you should be very, very careful about filing suit against your homeowner's (or condo-owner's) association.  Even if you're a smart attorney.  Even if, in fact, you might be right.

Because the HOA has an incentive to fight the lawsuit, and may rack up a quarter million dollars in legal fees that you ultimately might be forced to pay.

That's what Ventura attorney Susan Salehi discovered this week.  As a result of an opinion by Justice Yegan that's unlikely to add him to Salehi's list of Christmas card recipients.

For what it's worth, I think this one could have been shorter, and perhaps a little less harsh to Salehi.  Salehi dismissed all but two of her causes of action without prejudice on the eve of trial.  I agree with Justice Yegan that before deciding whether the Association is the prevailing party (and hence entitled to costs), it should see what happens to the remaining causes of action.  Accordingly, I think it's probably enough to say that a party who dismisses her causes of action without prejudice right before trial may well end up being the loser, and that it was hence an abuse of discretion to categorically deny the Association its fees.  At least at this point.

That way we'd get the right result and perhaps slam Ms. Salehi a little less.