16TH GROUP, LLC, an Oregon limited liability company, Plaintiff-Appellant,
LYNCH MECHANICAL CONSTRUCTION, LLC, an Oregon limited liability company; and MARTIN R. RALSTON, Defendants-Respondents
Submitted October 11, 2013
Multnomah County Circuit Court. 101217740. David F. Rees, Judge.
Michael J. Kavanaugh filed the brief for appellant.
Nicholas J. Henderson and Motschenbacher & Blattner, LLP, filed the brief for respondents.
Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Nakamoto, Judge, and De Muniz, Senior Judge.
[265 Or.App. 218] DE MUNIZ, S. J.
Plaintiff filed an action against defendants for breach of lease, alleging that defendants had failed to pay rent due under the lease, had failed to pay common area maintenance (CAM) charges due under the lease, and had damaged the leased property in violation of certain provisions of the lease. The trial court entered judgment for plaintiff on the breach-of-lease claim, assigning specific damage awards to the rent due, the CAM charges due, and the damage to the leased property caused by defendant's improper removal of HVAC equipment. In a supplemental judgment, the trial court awarded attorney fees to both plaintiff and defendants. Plaintiff appeals that judgment, arguing that the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees to defendants. For the reasons explained below, we agree with plaintiff, reverse the award of attorney fees to defendants, and remand to the trial court for an award of reasonable attorney fees to plaintiff.
The facts pertinent on appeal are undisputed. In September 2005, the parties signed a lease agreement. The agreement provided that, should either party bring an action involving the premises, the prevailing party would be entitled to reasonable attorney fees. Section 31 of the lease states:
" Attorneys' Fees. If any Party or Broker brings an action or proceeding involving the Premises whether founded in tort, contract or equity, or to declare rights hereunder, the Prevailing Party (as hereafter defined) in any such proceeding, action, or appeal thereon, shall be entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees. * * * The term, 'Prevailing Party' shall include, without limitation, a Party or Broker who substantially obtains or defeats the relief sought, as the case may be, whether by compromise, settlement, judgment, or the abandonment by the other Party or Broker of its claim or defense."
The agreement defines " rent" as " [a]ll monetary obligations of Lessee to Lessor under
the terms of this Lease (except for the Security Deposit)."
[265 Or.App. 219] As described earlier, plaintiff brought an action against defendants for breach of the lease, alleging that defendants had (1) failed to pay holdover rent, (2) failed to pay CAM charges due under the lease, and (3) installed and removed an HVAC system without permission and in doing so damaged the roof, the floor, and the garage ...