Under California law, insureds may not recover attorneys’ fees for work they performed on their own behalf, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, upholding a lower court ruling in Travelers Cos. Inc. units benefit.
Kathleen March and Patrick Bright, a married couple who are both attorneys and owners of Walking U Ranch LLC in New Cuyama, California, were involved in an underlying property dispute with a neighbor for which Traveler Cos. units had a duty to defend under the insured . ‘ primary and excess agricultural holdings, according to court papers in The Travelers Indemnity Co. in Connecticut; Traveler Casualty Insurance Co. of America v. Walking U Ranch LLC, Katheen P. March; Patrick Bright.
The U.S. District Court in Pasadena ruled in favor of the travelers on the couple̵7;s bad faith claim and request for attorney’s fees.
A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed the lower court’s ruling, saying: “Under California law…lawyers may not recover for work performed for themselves and another party with identical interests.”
Because Ms. March and Mr. Bright are married and the sole owners of Walking U Ranch, they therefore all shared the same interest in the outcome of the underlying action.
“There is also no indication that March or Bright spent any additional time in the underlying action representing Walking U Ranch LLC rather than themselves,” the panel said in upholding the lower court’s summary judgment dismissing the bad faith claim.
Ms. March and Mr. Bright and an attorney for Travelers did not respond to requests for comment.