On 02/05/2018 a Contract - Other Contract case was filed by IN-HOUSE AUTO FINANCE, INC , AS ASSGNEE FOR VARGO, INC against CHARLES EDWARD SINGLETON in the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California.
Disposed - Judgment Entered
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
IN-HOUSE AUTO FINANCE INC. AS ASSGNEE FOR VARGO INC
SINGLETON CHARLES EDWARD
10/3/2018: Minute Order - (Hearing on Motion to Deem Request for Admissions Admitted)
10/5/2018: Notice of Ruling
1/28/2019: Motion for Summary Judgment - Motion for Summary Judgment
4/17/2019: Notice of Ruling - Notice of Ruling
4/17/2019: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment)
4/17/2019: Judgment - Judgment
5/20/2019: Minute Order - Minute Order (Non-Appearance Case Review re lodging of proposed judgment)
2/23/2018: Response (name extension) - to complaint
7/30/2018: Minute Order - (Hearing on Motion to Deem Request for Admissions Admitted)
7/30/2018: Certificate of Mailing for - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion to Deem Request for Admissions Admitted) of 07/30/2018
6/19/2018: Motion to Deem RFA's Admitted
2/23/2018: Order on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court)
2/5/2018: Summons - on Complaint
2/5/2018: Civil Case Cover Sheet
2/5/2018: Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case
Hearingat 08:30 AM in Department 94 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Hearing on Motion for Attorney FeesRead MoreRead Less
DocketMotion for Attorney Fees; Filed by: In-House Auto Finance, Inc., as Assgnee for Vargo, Inc (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketMemorandum of Costs (Summary); Filed by: In-House Auto Finance, Inc., as Assgnee for Vargo, Inc (Plaintiff); As to: Charles Edward Singleton (Defendant); Total Costs: 1058.69Read MoreRead Less
DocketHearing on Motion for Attorney Fees scheduled for 01/27/2020 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94Read MoreRead Less
DocketNotice OF ENTRY OF JUDGMENT; Filed by: In-House Auto Finance, Inc., as Assgnee for Vargo, Inc (Plaintiff); As to: Charles Edward Singleton (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketCourt orders judgment entered for Plaintiff In-House Auto Finance, Inc., as Assgnee for Vargo, Inc against Defendant Charles Edward Singleton on the Complaint filed by In-House Auto Finance, Inc., as Assgnee for Vargo, Inc on 02/05/2018 for the principal amount of $17,223.25 for a total of $17,223.25. Cost to be determined per filing of Memorandum of Costs.Read MoreRead Less
DocketMinute Order (Non-Appearance Case Review re lodging of proposed judgment)Read MoreRead Less
DocketNon-Appearance Case Review re lodging of proposed judgment scheduled for 05/20/2019 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94 updated: Result Date to 05/20/2019; Result Type to HeldRead MoreRead Less
DocketNon-Appearance Case Review re lodging of proposed judgment scheduled for 05/20/2019 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94Read MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by: In-House Auto Finance, Inc., as Assgnee for Vargo, Inc (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketProof of Personal Service; Filed by: In-House Auto Finance, Inc., as Assgnee for Vargo, Inc (Plaintiff); As to: Charles Edward Singleton (Defendant); Service Date: 02/21/18; Service Cost: 43.84; Service Cost Waived: NoRead MoreRead Less
DocketResponse to complaint; Filed by: Charles Edward Singleton (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketCase reassigned to Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Department 77Read MoreRead Less
DocketCase assigned to Hon. Elaine Lu in Department 77 Stanley Mosk CourthouseRead MoreRead Less
DocketNon-Jury Trial scheduled for 08/05/2019 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 77Read MoreRead Less
DocketOrder to Show Cause - Failure to File Proof of Service scheduled for 02/08/2021 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 77Read MoreRead Less
DocketComplaint; Filed by: In-House Auto Finance, Inc., as Assgnee for Vargo, Inc (Plaintiff); As to: Charles Edward Singleton (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by: In-House Auto Finance, Inc., as Assgnee for Vargo, Inc (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketSummons on Complaint; Issued and Filed by: ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case; Filed by: ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: 18STLC02217 Hearing Date: March 04, 2020 Dept: 26
In-House Auto Finance, Inc. v. Singleton, et al.
MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES
(CCP §§ 1032, 1033.5)
Plaintiff In-House Auto Finance, Inc.’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is GRANTED IN THE AMOUNT OF $4,880.00.
Following Defendant Charles Edward Singleton’s (“Defendant”) default on his monthly payments on a 2008 GMC Yukon XL (the “GMC”) in breach of a contract, Plaintiff In-House Auto Finance, Inc. (“Plaintiff”) brought this action for a deficiency judgment after the repossession and sale of the GMC. (See Brown v. Jensen (1953) 41 Cal.2d 193, 198 [“a deficiency is nothing more than the difference between the security and the debt”].)
On April 17, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Attorneys’ Fees on July 11, 2019. To date, no opposition has been filed.
A prevailing party is entitled to recover costs, including attorneys’ fees, as a matter of right. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1032, subd. (a)(4).) Civil Code section 1717 states in pertinent part: “[i]n any action on a contract, where the contract specifically provides that attorney's fees and costs, which are incurred to enforce that contract, shall be awarded either to one of the parties or to the prevailing party, then the party who is determined to be the party prevailing on the contract, whether he or she is the party specified in the contract or not, shall be entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees in addition to other costs.” (Civ. Code, § 1717, subd. (a).)
“A notice of motion to claim attorney's fees for services up to and including the rendition of judgment in the trial court . . . must be served and filed within the time for filing a notice of appeal under . . . rules 8.822 and 8.823 in a limited civil case.” (Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 3.1702, subd. (b)(1).) In a limited civil case, a notice of appeal must be filed on or before the earliest of 30 days after service of a document entitled “Notice of Entry” of judgment or 90 days after the entry of judgment. (Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 8.822, subd. (a)(1).)
The fee setting inquiry in California ordinarily begins with the “lodestar” method, i.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate. A computation of time spent on a case and the reasonable value of that time is fundamental to a determination of an appropriate attorneys’ fee award. The lodestar figure may then be adjusted, based on consideration of factors specific to the case, in order to fix the fee at the fair market value for the legal services provided. (Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20 Cal.3d 25, 49.) Such an approach anchors the trial court’s analysis to an objective determination of the value of the attorney’s services, ensuring that the amount awarded is not arbitrary. (Id., at p. 48, fn. 23.) After the trial court has performed the lodestar calculations, it shall consider whether the total award so calculated under all of the circumstances of the case is more than a reasonable amount and, if so, shall reduce the section 1717 award so that it is a reasonable figure. (PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095-1096.)
As explained in Graciano v. Robinson Ford Sales, Inc. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 140, 154:
“[T]he lodestar is the basic fee for comparable legal services in the community; it may be adjusted by the court based on factors including, as relevant herein, (1) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, (2) the skill displayed in presenting them, (3) the extent to which the nature of the litigation precluded other employment by the attorneys, (4) the contingent nature of the fee award. [Citation.] The purpose of such adjustment is to fix a fee at the fair market value for the particular action. In effect, the court determines, retrospectively, whether the litigation involved a contingent risk or required extraordinary legal skill justifying augmentation of the unadorned lodestar in order to approximate the fair market rate for such services. . . . This approach anchors the trial court's analysis to an objective determination of the value of the attorney's services, ensuring that the amount awarded is not arbitrary.” [Internal citations and internal quotation marks omitted.]
(Graciano v. Robinson Ford Sales, Inc. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 140.) “It is well established that the determination of what constitutes reasonable attorney fees is committed to the discretion of the trial court, whose decision cannot be reversed in the absence of an abuse of discretion. [Citations.] The value of legal services performed in a case is a matter in which the trial court has its own expertise. . . . The trial court makes its determination after consideration of a number of factors, including the nature of the litigation, its difficulty, the amount involved, the skill required in its handling, the skill employed, the attention given, the success or failure, and other circumstances in the case. [Citations.]” (Melnyk v. Robledo (1976) 64 Cal.App.3d 618, 623-624.)
No specific findings reflecting the court’s calculations are required. The record need only show that the attorney fees were awarded according to the “lodestar” or “touchstone” approach. The court’s focus in evaluating the facts should be to provide a fee award reasonably designed to completely compensate attorneys for the services provided. The starting point for this determination is the attorney’s time records. (Horsford v. Board of Trustees of Calif. State Univ. (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 359, 395-397 [verified time records entitled to credence absent clear indication they are erroneous].) However, California case law permits fee awards in the absence of detailed time sheets. (Sommers v. Erb (1992) 2 Cal.App.4th 1644, 1651; Dunk v. Ford Motor Co. (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 1794, 1810; Nightingale v. Hyundai Motor America (1994) 31 Cal.App.4th 99, 103.) An experienced trial judge is in a position to assess the value of the professional services rendered in his or her court. (Id.; Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20 Cal.3d 25, 49; Wershba v. Apple Computer, Inc. (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 224, 255.)
It is undisputed that Plaintiff is the prevailing party in this action, as the party in who prevailed on the Motion for Summary Judgment. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1032, subd. (a)(4).) Judgment was entered in Plaintiff’s favor on June 26, 2019 and notice of entry of judgment was served on Defendant by mail on July 9, 2019. The instant Motion for Attorney’s Fees was timely filed and served on July 11, 2019.
The Motion demonstrates that the agreement on which Plaintiff sued contained an attorney’s fees clause. (Motion, Exh. A., p. 2.) Plaintiff’s attorney, Jay S. Belshaw, submits a declaration stating that he has been practicing for 38 years and bills at $240.00 an hour. (Motion, Belshaw Decl., ¶6.) The court finds this hourly rate to be reasonable in light of Plaintiff’s attorney’s experience and the degree of complexity involved in this action. Plaintiff’s attorney also states that he spent 29.5 hours working on this action, with an additional six hours spent on the instant Motion for Attorney’s Fees. (Id. at ¶¶5, 9.) A breakdown of the time spent on this action, which includes preparing and filing discovery motions, the motion for summary judgment, and the instant Motion for Attorney’s Fees is attached. (Id. at Exh. B.) However, the Court finds the number of hours billed excessive given that none of the motions was opposed and the issues presented were straightforward. The Court finds that the amount of time reasonably billed should be reduced to 20 hours. Based on the foregoing rate and number of hours billed, Plaintiff is entitled to recover $4,880.00 in attorneys’ fees against Defendant.
Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff In-House Auto Finance, Inc.’s Motion for Attorneys’ Fees is GRANTED IN THE AMOUNT OF $4,880.00.
Moving party to give notice.