Key Decisions

August 2013 – Notice Is Satisfactory When Given To An Attorney Who Demands That Communications Go Through the Attorney

(filed under: Key Decisions | August 16, 2013)

Notice Is Satisfactory When Given To An Attorney Who Demands That Communications Go Through the Attorney

Eucasia Schools Worldwide, Inc. v. DW August Co.
(Cal. Ct. of App., 2d Dist.), filed July 24, 2013, published July 24, 2013

Eucasia Schools Worldwide leased premises from DW August Co. The relationship was a strained one and, as a result, DW August dealt with Eucasia Schools Worldwide through its attorney.

DW August listed the premises for sale with a real estate broker. In conjunction with that, it wanted to have a building inspector inspect the premises.

The lease provided that DW August had the right to inspect the premises “at reasonable times after reasonable notice.” The lease provided that all notices must be in writing and delivered or mailed to the premises.

DW August’s counsel wrote a letter to Eucasia Schools Worldwide concerning the security deposit and guarantor of the lease. As required by the lease, he sent the letter to Eucasia Schools Worldwide at the premises. At that time attorney Dennis Balsamo represented Eucasia Schools Worldwide. In reply to the letter from DW August’s counsel, Balsamo’s legal assistant wrote: “Please have NO DIRECT CONTACT with our client without the express permission of this office.”

DW August’s counsel wrote a letter to Balsamo noting that DW August had the right to inspect the premises at reasonable times after reasonable notice and inquired about an inspection. Balsamo did not respond. Several months later, without having received any sort of response, DW August’s counsel wrote Balsamo to advise DW August was going to inspect the premises.

DW August performed an inspection of the premises.

Eucasia Schools Worldwide responded by suing it. All of the causes of action arose from the inspection. The complaint asserted that, without giving any prior required notice to it, and without its consent, DW August had unlawfully and forcibly entered the premises.

A jury returned a special verdict in DW August’s favor. DW August then sought attorney’s fees as the prevailing party. The trial court awarded it $124,997.

The Court of Appeal affirmed. It ruled that when Eucasia Schools Worldwide’s attorney advised DW August not to communicate directly with Eucasia Schools Worldwide and to communicate only with his office, and DW August then sent notice of the inspection to him, it had satisfied its obligation under the lease. Thus, DW August was entitled to have prevailed at trial and was entitled to fees.

In addition to affirming, the Court of Appeals directed that DW August was entitled to attorney’s fees incurred in connection with the appeal.