Court affirms denial of attorney fee award to opponent of GMSR’s public entity client

Martinez v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 1038 (California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division One) [published]. Plaintiff accepted a settlement offer under Code of Civil Procedure section 998 from GMSR’s client, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The offer provided that each party bear its own costs, but said nothing about attorney fees. The trial court denied plaintiff’s subsequent motion for statutory attorney fees on the ground that they were costs plaintiff had agreed to bear.

The Court of Appeal affirmed. Creating a new “bright-line rule,” the court held: “Unless the offer expressly states otherwise, an offer of a monetary compromise under section 998 that excludes ‘costs’ also excludes attorney fees.”