California Code of Civil Procedure 998, also known as CCP 998, can be a powerful tool for settling cases. This article discusses CCP 998 in the unlawful detainer (eviction) context.
Part of CCP 998 states:
…any party may serve an offer in writing upon any other party to the action to allow judgment to be taken or an award to be entered in accordance with the terms and conditions stated at that time… (CCP 998(b))
In the case of a landlord/plaintiff making the CCP 998 offer, the code says:
If an offer made by a plaintiff is not accepted and the defendant fails to obtain a more favorable judgment or award in any action or proceeding other than an eminent domain action, the court or arbitrator, in its discretion, may require the defendant to pay a reasonable sum to cover postoffer costs of the services of expert witnesses, who are not regular employees of any party, actually incurred and reasonably necessary in either, or both, preparation for trial or arbitration, or during trial or arbitration, of the case by the plaintiff, in addition to plaintiff’s costs. (CCP 998(d))
In other words, if the landlord/plaintiff makes an offer to the tenant/defendant, and if the tenant rejects the offer and the tenant fails to obtain a more favorable judgment, the tenant may have to pay the plaintiff’s postoffer costs (including attorney fees as costs), and possibly expert witness fees. CCP 998 can therefore be used as a litigation fee-shifting tool in some unlawful detainer/eviction circumstances.
Important to mention is that CCP 998 goes both ways. Not discussed in this article are consequences to a landlord/plaintiff if the tenant/defendant is the party to make the 998 offer, that offer is rejected by the plaintiff, and the plaintiff fails to receive a more favorable outcome.
This article does not seek to define what terms should be included in a settlement offer, nor describe the items required to be in such an offer. Counsel should be consulted for your particular case.
California Code of Civil Procedure 998 is a powerful tool for parties to use in unlawful detainer eviction cases.
Read David Piotrowski’s “Landlord Best Practices and Eviction Overview” book. If you need help with an eviction, including possible settlements under CCP 998, contact us today. Also, be sure to check out our reviews! We look forward to helping you. We offer a free consultation on most cases.