SMITH v. FIRST PRINCIPLE CHURCH
RUSSELL SMITH, et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
FIRST PRINCIPLE CHURCH, Defendant and Respondent.
Court of Appeals of California, Sixth District.
Filed January 27, 2011.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS
This is an appeal from a post-judgment award of attorney's fees. In the companion appeal (H033637), we affirm the judgment in favor of defendant and respondent First Principle Church (Church or the Church) in a civil action for breach of contract and promissory estoppel filed by plaintiffs and appellants Russell Smith and Helga Smith. (We shall hereafter refer to Russell Smith as "Smith"; his wife, Helga Smith, as "Helga"; and Russell and Helga jointly as "the Smiths.")
In this appeal, the Smiths attack the trial court's post-judgment order awarding Church $401,654 in attorney's fees pursuant to the attorney's fee provision in a pension agreement between the Smiths and Church. In particular, the Smiths challenge the trial court's finding that Church was the prevailing party on the contract, arguing that since Church's cross-complaint was also based on the contract, neither side is entitled to attorney's fees. The Smiths also contend that the attorney's fees order should be modified to indicate that the attorney's fees award is against Smith only and not against Helga. The Smiths do not challenge the reasonableness of the amount awarded as attorney's fees. We find no error and affirm the order.FACTS
Smith and his brother, I. M. Nome, founded Church in the 1970's. Smith retired from active ministry at the Church in December 1995. In early 1996, Smith and Church entered into a written agreement whereby Church agreed to pay the Smiths pension benefits. The agreement contained an attorney's fees clause, which provided: "If the Church refuses to honor the terms of this contract at any time and Russell Smith must take legal action to enforce this contract, all reasonable court and attorney's fees incurred by him shall be borne by the Church." (See opinion in H033637 for details about the parties' relationship and the other terms of the contract.)
Church paid pension benefits pursuant to the contract from 1996 until 2003. In 2003, Church questioned its obligation to continue paying pension benefits and consulted an attorney, who advised Church that the agreement was unenforceable because it lacked consideration. Church stopped paying the pension benefits. At that time, the total amount paid was $263,787.