Cross-Complaints May Prohibit You From Collecting Attorney Fees

Law Offices of Peter N. Brewer

by Law Offices of Peter N. Brewer on April 8, 2013

in Contract Disputes, Legal Update, Real Estate Law

Recently, there have been a series of decisions in California that have limited the recovery of attorney fees.  In my previous blog article titled, “Can you Really Get those Attorney Fees? ” I discussed the importance of complying with alternative dispute resolution provisions prior to filing suit.  Now, the California Court of appeal has held that a defendant who prevailed in a lawsuit could be barred from recovering attorney fees because he also  filed an unsuccessful  cross-complaint in the same action.

Facts of the Case

In Zintel Holdings, LLC v. McLean, Zintel Holdings, LLC, the landlord, sued two tenants, Lilo McLean and Mark Huth, to reform a 50-year lease.  In response, Lilo filed a cross-complaint for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, elder abuse, and emotional distress.  Mark Huth did not file a cross-complaint.

Eventually, the court granted motions for summary judgment finding that both the complaint and the cross-complaint lacked merit.  After the dismissal of the complaint and cross-complaint, both tenants filed requests for attorney fees and were denied.  However, the Court did award both tenants their costs of approximately $2,500.


The appellate court reversed the denial of attorney fees as to Mark Huth but affirmed the denial as to Lilo McLean.  The Court found that McLean’s cross-complaint was an action on the contract so neither McLean nor Zintel were prevailing parties as neither achieved complete victory.  On the other hand, since Huth did not file a cross-complaint, he had achieved complete victory by successfully defeating Plaintiff’s suit and was entitled to attorney fees.


This case demonstrates that although many people file cross-complaints as a tactic to aggressively defend the case, that strategy may come back to haunt a defendant.  Before filing a cross-complaint, it is important to analyze if there is an attorney fee provision and the likelihood of success on the cross-complaint.

If you have any further questions regarding this article, feel free to contact the Law Offices of Peter N. Brewer at (650) 327-2900.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar WesternWorld April 26, 2017 at 9:45 pm

Nice blog post. Thanks for making things so clear. Looking forward to your next article.

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