Huerta v. Kava Holdings, Inc., 29 Cal. App. 5th 74 (2018)

Felix Huerta sued Kava Holdings dba Hotel Bel-Air after the hotel terminated him and another restaurant server who was involved in an altercation during work. The trial court granted Kava’s motion for nonsuit as to Huerta’s claim for retaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), and the jury returned a verdict against Huerta on the remaining FEHA claims. The trial court subsequently denied Kava’s motion for attorney’s fees, expert fees and costs under Cal. Gov’t Code § 12965(b) on the ground that Huerta’s action was not frivolous, but granted Kava $50,000 in costs and expert witness fees under Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 998 based on Huerta’s rejection of Kava’s pretrial settlement offer. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that Section 998 does not apply to non-frivolous FEHA actions. (The Court further noted that effective Jan. 1, 2019, Section 998 will have no application to costs and attorney and expert witness fees in a FEHA action unless the lawsuit is found to be frivolous.)