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Mackey v. American Fashion Institute Corp.

as corrected.: January 28, 1991.

MARVIN MACKEY, RESPONDENT,
v.
AMERICAN FASHION INSTITUTE CORP., ET AL, APPELLANTS



Scholfield, J. Webster, A.c.j., and Coleman, J., concur.

Author: Scholfield

American Fashion Institute, Magic Fit Enterprise, and Dusan Mrak appeal the trial court's denial of their request for attorney's fees pursuant to RCW 4.84.250. We reverse.

Facts

On March 11, 1985, respondent Marvin Mackey filed suit for breach of contract against Magic Fit Enterprise, American Fashion Institute, and Dusan Mrak, the sole shareholder of both corporations.*fn1 In the suit, Mackey alleged that his former employer, American Fashion, had violated RCW 49.52.050*fn2 by willfully withholding a portion of his

wages. In his complaint, Mackey prayed for relief in the amount of $10,000, together with his reasonable attorney's fees and costs. The $10,000 figure represented the combined total of $5,000 in wages Mackey alleged was wrongfully withheld, plus an additional $5,000 pursuant to the doubling provisions of RCW 49.52.070.*fn3 On December 9, 1986, Mackey refused a $1,000 offer of settlement made by defendants pursuant to RCW 4.84.250. The case went to trial on March 14, 1989.

The court ruled in favor of American Fashion on the breach of contract claim, holding that Mackey was entitled to no relief because no valid contract existed between the parties regarding the payment of wage increases. American Fashion subsequently moved for an award of attorney's fees under RCW 4.84.250. In denying the motion, the trial court stated:

The defendants [a]re entitled to recover statutory costs. The defendants are not entitled to recovery [ sic ] attorney fees pursuant to RCW 4.84.250 et seq. and Civil Rule 68. The legislature's amendment increasing the maximum dollar limit under RCW 4.84.250 from $7,500 to $10,000 did not become effective until July 2, 1985. The complaint in this case was filed on February 26, 1985.*fn4 In the complaint plaintiff asked for $10,000 damages ($5,000 to be doubled pursuant to RCW 49.52.070). The amendment to RCW 4.84.250 which increased the maximum dollar limit cannot be applied retroactively to this case. Therefore, since the amount pleaded exceeded $7,500 RCW 4.84.250 is not applicable to this case, and defendants are not entitled to attorney's fees.

American Fashion's motion for a reconsideration of this ruling was denied by the trial court.

Judgment was entered in favor of American Fashion on November 13, 1989, dismissing Mackey's claims and requiring him to pay statutory costs of $330.50 to defendants. The judgment also incorporated the court's finding that American Fashion was not entitled to attorney's fees. American Fashion's appeal seeks a reversal of the trial court's denial of attorney's fees below, in addition to seeking attorney's fees on appeal.

Applicability of Amendment to RCW 4.84.250

[1] As a general rule, a reviewing court will not overturn a decision to grant or deny attorney's fees absent a showing of a manifest abuse of discretion. Bill of Rights Legal Found. v. The Evergreen State College, 44 Wash. App. 690, 696, 723 P.2d 483 (1986). However, if the amount in controversy is $10,000 or less, RCW 4.84.250 mandates fees to a prevailing party. Kingston Lumber Supply Co. v. High Tech Dev. Inc., 52 Wash. App. 864, 867, 765 P.2d 27 (1988), review denied, 112 Wash. 2d 1010 (1989). The question of whether a statute applies to a factual situation is a question of ...


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