In NJ, you generally use an attorney to buy or sell a home.  Sales contracts are not standardized, often contain legalese and are not friendly for lay people (i.e. non-attorneys).  Attorneys hold the exchanged monies in their trust account for disbursement. California, on the other hand, generally uses standardized forms and escrow companies rather than attorneys.

California has a clause in their standard residential sales agreement that mandates mediation before suing, otherwise attorneys fees are not recoverable.  This was recently upheld in the case of Jay Lange v. Roxanne Schilling, et al.
The plaintiff spent $113,000 in legal fees to get a $13,000 judgment. Plaintiff did not offer mediation before suing (he claims he couldn’t find the defendant) and the appeals court would not grant him his legal fees.

So, he in essence gained a pyrrhic victory. He won on his underlying claim (the published judgment does not detail what that was), but it cost him $100,000 to do so.

Sometimes “winning” isn’t everything…or better yet, define what “winning” is prior to setting off on your journey to get it.

With a hat tip to Kevin Forrester at Making and Keeping Peace in Real Property Matters.