Need to get attorney fees after winning your case? The deadline to file your motion is the same as the deadline to appeal, and here’s an example of the strange mysteries of the “triggering document” rules that trigger the 60-day deadline.
After a trust beneficiary won her first appeal, on remand in Karamooz v. Karamooz (D4d3 Nov. 14, 2022) no. G060515, 2022 WL 16918764 (nonpub. opn.) the probate court held a further hearing. Then the court issued a couple of rulings that are the pieces of the puzzle of the 60-day deadline:
First, in June, the court issued a tentative decision.
Then in July, the court issued a modified statement of decision and order. The clerk served a filed-stamped copy of the modification.
Finally, in August, the respondent served a notice of entry of the tentative—but not the modification.
The appellant filed her fee motion in October—within 60 days after service of the notice of entry of the tentative, but more than 60 days after service of the file-stamped copy of the tentative.
So was the fee motion timely?
Held: The fee motion was timely. Whether the 60-day period started running from service the notice of entry of the tentative or the file-stamped copy of the modification is a trick question: neither one was complete in itself, and so neither was effective to trigger the 60-day deadline.
Here is the black-letter law about the 60-day triggering documents to clip-and-save:
For the deadline to begin running under California Rules of Court, rule 8.104(a)(1), complete judgment must be served by the clerk or one of the parties. “[R]ule 8.104(a)(1) ... require[s] a single document—either a ‘Notice of Entry’ so entitled or a file-stamped copy of the judgment or appealable order—that is sufficient in itself to satisfy all of the rule's conditions .... [T]he rule does not require litigants to glean the required information from multiple documents or to guess, at their peril, whether such documents in combination trigger the duty to file a notice of appeal. ‘Neither parties nor appellate courts should be required to speculate about jurisdictional time limits.’ ” (Alan v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (2007) 40 Cal.4th 894, 905, italics added.)
Here, the tentative was not a complete document, because it was later modified. And the modification was not complete either, because it stated that the tentative “remains the judgment of the ... case” other than the modifications.
So the 60-day deadline was never triggered. So the 180-day deadline applied (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.104(a)(1).)
In fact, to the extent this was a tentative decision under California Rules of Court rule 3.1590, it was not appealable at all. A tentative is not binding unless the tentative contains a provision that it will become the statement of decision. (Cal. Rules of Ct., rule 3.1590(c)(1), (4).) And a statement of decision is not appealable. (Alan v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (2007) 40 Cal.4th 894, 901.) So in the absence of an appealable order, the fee motion arguably was not ripe.
Tim Kowal is an appellate specialist certified by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Tim helps trial attorneys and clients win their cases and avoid error on appeal. He co-hosts the Cal. Appellate Law Podcast at www.CALPodcast.com, and publishes summaries of cases and appellate tips for trial attorneys at www.tvalaw.com/articles. Contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org or (714) 641-1232.
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