August 2011

Administrative Hearings Are “Actions” Subject to an Award of Attorneys Fees

Attorney Authors: 

In Edna Valley Watch v. County of San Luis Obispo, the Court of Appeal determined that the trial court could make a Section 1021.5 award of attorneys’ fees that the plaintiffs incurred in preparing for an administrative hearing. 

As a prerequisite to filing their CEQA lawsuit, the plaintiffs had appealed San Luis Obispo County’s grant of a conditional use permit to a church for its planned church complex.  The court held that these administrative proceedings were useful and necessary to the litigation essentially because the plaintiffs could not have brought their lawsuit without first exhausting their administrative remedies, and that “[i]n fact, there can be no public interest litigation without first filing an administrative proceeding.” 

California Supreme Court Limits Medical Damages

The California Supreme Court today limited defendants’ liability for “medical special” damages.  “We hold . . . that an injured plaintiff whose medical expenses are paid through private insurance may recover as economic damages no more than the amounts paid by the plaintiff or his or her insurer for the medical services received or still owing at the time of trial.”  The court rejected plaintiff arguments that defendants are liable for the full “billed” amount, regardless of any discount the insurer may negotiate.  “We hold no such recovery is allowed, for the simple reason that the injured plaintiff did not suffer any economic loss in that amount.”  The court’s ruling prevents plaintiffs from recovering in damages more than the actual harm incurred.  

Public Entity Appellate Victory in Roadway Flooding Case

On August 24, 2011, the California Court of Appeal found in favor of San Bernardino County in an inverse condemnation case based upon flooding caused by water run-off from a County road.  The plaintiffs' properties had been damaged during two separate storms, and the plaintiffs contended that an unimproved County road caused the damage in one storm, and K-rail placed by the County on an improved portion of the same road caused damage during the other storm.  In affirming the trial court's findings in favor of the County, the Court of Appeal confirmed th