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CA Appeals Court Rejects Attorney Fees in Property Tax Case

January 5, 2021 | Posted in : Fee Award, Fee Denial, Fee Entitlement / Recoverability, Fee Issues on Appeal, Fee Jurisprudence, Fees & Taxes / Tax Cases

A recent Law 360 story by Asha Glover, “Calf. Appeals Court Rejects Atty Fees for LA Theater in Tax Row” reports that a Los Angeles theater isn't entitled to attorney fees after successfully challenging its property taxes, a California appeals court said, overturning a decision from a lower court.  A lower California court erred in awarding attorney fees to Chinese Theatres LLC, a California appeals court said in a published decision.  The court rejected Chinese Theatre's argument that state law allows an award of attorney fees in any case where a court finds that the county board's findings are deficient or arbitrary, regardless of whether the court remands the measure to the local assessment appeals board with directions to make new findings.

The court said that Chinese Theatre's argument ignores an entire phrase of the statute requiring the case to be remanded and essentially asks the court to rewrite the statute.  The court rejected the theater company's contention that the Los Angeles County Assessment Appeals Board failed to make the finding that it was required to make.  The court pointed to the board's finding that half of the theater naming rights agreement granting the right to name the theater the TCL Chinese Theatre was an intangible asset — a finding that was one of the primary reasons the company filed the lawsuit.

The court also said that the lower court's sole purpose of remanding the case to the board was to excise the taxable value of the agreement from the property's assessment and to make necessary corrections to the tax roll.  The board did not need to make any new findings to explain how it valued the property once the revenue generated by the agreement was deducted from the tax assessment, according to the opinion.