Sometimes a decision just makes no sense, at least to someone looking at it from the outside. Such is the case with Profit Concepts Management, Inc. v. Griffith, case no. G039077 (4th Dist. May 5, 2008).
Oh, the merits make sense. California-based Profit Concepts sued former employee Griffith in California under an employment agreement that contained an attorney fee provision. But Griffith lived in Oklahoma and successfully moved to quash service for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court awarded Griffith contractual attorney fees as the prevailing party.
Reasonable enough. The court rejects Profit Concept’s argument that because the lawsuit, which it had resumed in Oklahoma, left contract issues pending resolution, Griffith could not be considered the prevailing party under Civil Code section 1717. Griffith clearly prevailed on the claims in California, and that is all the award was concerned with.
The part that’s hard to understand is the reasoning employed by Profit Concepts in pursuing the appeal, both legally and practically.
Legally, it’s hard to understand why Profit Concepts cited case authority interpreting an older version of Civil Code section 1717 that had changed in a very material respect. Specifically, while the former statute defined a “prevailing party” in terms of obtaining a final judgment, the current version defines prevailing party as, among others, a party that obtains a dismissal. That’s a pretty clear and relevant distinction.
The practical part is just as hard, if not harder, to understand. The attorney fees awarded were barely $3400. What made this appeal practical?