Aerotek, Inc. v. The Johnson Group Staffing Co., 2020 WL 5525180 (Cal. Ct. App. 2020)

The law firm Porter Scott, P.C., defended its client The Johnson Group Staffing (TJG) through two rounds of litigation against claims asserted by TJG’s chief competitor Aerotek. In the litigation, Aerotek alleged that TJG (whose founder came from Aerotek) misappropriated trade secrets by soliciting Aerotek’s customers. Aerotek lost the underlying cases and was ordered to pay prevailing-party attorney fees in the amount of $735,781 pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code § 3426.4. The trial court determined that Porter Scott (not TJG) was entitled to the fees, because “attorney fees awarded under section 3426.4 (exceeding fees the client already paid) belong to the attorneys who labored to earn them, absent an enforceable agreement to the contrary” (relying on Flannery v. Prentice, 26 Cal. 4th 572 (2001), which involved prevailing-party attorney fees under FEHA). See also Department of Fair Employment & Housing v. Cathy’s Creations, Inc., 2020 WL 5405797 (Cal. Ct. App. 2020) (prevailing defendant in Unruh Civil Rights Act claim is not entitled to recover its attorney fees against DFEH).