This Article argues that, although the doctrine of estoppel has fallen into disrepute in recent cases, it is still the fairest and most equitable basis on which to adjudicate the right to attorneys' fees in non signatory cases. Part II puts the problem of nonsignatory recovery of attorneys' fees in historical context by examining the roots and rationale of the "American Rule" of attorneys' fees. Part III describes section 1717 of the California Civil Code and case law interpretation of that section. Part IV will trace the development of the doctrine permitting recovery of attorneys' fees by non signatories to a contract through California case law and identify the basis that courts rely on to grant or deny such recovery. Part V provides an explication of the erroneously decided case of Leach v. Home Savings & Loan Assn, and Part VI explains the judicial response to Leach and the confusion it created. In Parts V and VI, the steady erosion of the doctrine of estoppel is analyzed in the post-Leach era, and an argument is presented as to why this trend should be reversed.
Stephen R. Ginger,
Attorneys' Fees Awards to Contract Nonsignatories: Should Equitable Estoppel Inform the Discretion of the Courts?, 40 Golden Gate U. L. Rev.