Hjelm v. Prometheus Real Estate Grp., Inc.Annotate this Case
In 2011, the Hjelms leased an apartment in a large San Mateo complex from Prometheus. They signed the 24-page lease while still living in another state and without any negotiation. The lease had three one-sided provisions allowing Prometheus to recover attorney fees. Their apartment became infested with bedbugs, and the complex had an ongoing raw sewage problem. Ultimately the Hjelms and their children were forced to leave. The Hjelms sued Prometheus; a jury returned a verdict for them, awarding economic damage to the Hjelms in the amount of $11,652; non-economic damage to Christine Hjelm of $35,000; and non-economic damage to Justin Hjelm of $25,000. The trial court then awarded the Hjelms their attorney fees ($326, 475) based on Civil Code section 1717. The court of appeal affirmed, noting that a one-sided attorney’s fee provision violates Civil Code 1717(a). No challenge to the verdict could succeed and section 1717 does apply.