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Under California law, insureds may not recover attorneys fees for work they performed on their own behalf, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in affirming a lower court decision in Travelers Cos. Inc. units’ favor.
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 Travelers Cos. units had a duty to defend under the insureds’ primary and excess agribusiness policies, according to court papers in The Travelers Indemnity Co. of Connecticut; Travelers Casualty Insurance Co. of America v. Walking U Ranch LLC, Katheen P. March; Patrick Bright.
The U.S. District Court in Pasadena ruled in Travelers’ favor on the couple’s bad faith breach claim and request for attorneys fees.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed the lower court ruling, saying, “Under California law … attorneys may not recover for work performed on behalf of themselves and another party with identical interests.”
Because Ms. March and Mr. Bright are married and Walking U Ranch’s sole owners, 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 extra time in the underlying action representing Walking U Ranch LLC rather than themselves,” the panel said in affirming the lower court’s summary judgment rejecting the bad faith claim.
Ms. March and Mr. Bright and an attorney for Travelers did not respond to requests for comment.