Cook v. Grebe (9/11/2018)

October 3, 2018

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that the prevailing party on a quiet title claim may recover attorneys’ fees regardless of the outcome of other claims in the action.

Two neighbors brought competing claims over the ownership of a piece of real property.  The plaintiff claimed adverse possession and asserted a private nuisance.  The defendant counterclaimed for quiet title, conversion, unjust enrichment, and trespass.  The defendant prevailed on quiet title and trespass but lost on conversion and unjust enrichment.  Plaintiff lost on adverse possession but won on private nuisance.  The trial court awarded partial fees to the defendant.  The plaintiff appealed.

The Court of Appeals upheld the fee award.  A court may award fees when authorized by statute.  A.R.S. § 12-1103 provides that the prevailing party in a quiet title action is eligible for a fee award.  Here, that statute applied to both the quiet title and adverse possession claims and the defendant prevailed on both of those claims.  The outcome of other claims does not affect who is the prevailing party that is eligible for fees under A.R.S. § 12-1103.  The loss of other claims is relevant only to the court’s determination of whether to actually award fees and in what amount.

Judge Brown authored the opinion; Judges Cruz and Portley concurred.