Shapira v. Lifetech ResourcesAnnotate this Case
Shapira sued his former employer, Lifetech, for breach of an employment contract. The parties presented their evidence at a bench trial and rested. Before Shapira submitted his closing argument brief, he requested that the court dismiss the case under Code of Civil Procedure, section 581(e), which provides, “After the actual commencement of trial, the court shall dismiss the complaint . . . with prejudice, if the plaintiff requests a dismissal.” The court denied Shapira’s request. After the parties filed their closing argument briefs, the court entered a judgment in Lifetech’s favor, held that Lifetech was the prevailing party under Civil Code section 1717, and awarded Lifetech costs and $137,000 in attorney fees. Shapira appealed the attorney fees award. The court of appeal reversed. The court should have dismissed the case under section 581(e), so the award of attorney fees was erroneous under Civil Code section 1717(b)(2), which states, “Where an action has been voluntarily dismissed or dismissed pursuant to a settlement of the case, there shall be no prevailing party for purposes of this section.” Section 581(e) provides a right to dismiss a case before the completion of trial.