Tenants Ochoa and Ciofalo sued landlord. Ochoas lease has a provision awarding the prevailing party attorney fees. Ciolalo’s lease did not. Ochoa was awarded $53,195.00 and Ciolfalo $45,441.00, but the only claim that Ciofalo prevailed on with an attorneys fee provision was $200.00 (tripled to $600.00) under the local rent ordinance. The attorneys fee award to the two tenants was $184,340.40
The landlord appealed, arguing that Ciofalo shouldn’t get any attorneys fees, as the claim that he prevailed on was so small in proportion to the size of the attorneys fee.
The appellate court ruled that $600.00 was enough to be considered the “prevailing party” and also that the attorney time spent on Ciofalo could not be separated from that spent on Ochoa, who was entitled to attorneys fees by his lease. On the issue of the attorneys fees being disproportionate to the size of the Tenants damages award, the court stated that as the tenants attorney fee was determinable under the loadstar criteria of a reasonable hourly rate for a reasonably expended number of hours. This calculation is not subject to proportionality to the amount the party recovered.