This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 10/17/2021 at 06:30:15 (UTC).

JH PLUMBING CORPORATION, INC. VS CORR CONTEMPORARY HOMES, LLC

Case Summary

On 04/25/2019 JH PLUMBING CORPORATION, INC filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against CORR CONTEMPORARY HOMES, LLC. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Spring Street Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is JAMES E. BLANCARTE. The case status is Disposed - Judgment Entered.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    *******4088

  • Filing Date:

    04/25/2019

  • Case Status:

    Disposed - Judgment Entered

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Other Contract

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Judge

JAMES E. BLANCARTE

 

Party Details

Plaintiff

JH PLUMBING CORPORATION INC.

Defendants

CORR CONTEMPORARY HOMES LLC

PERUGINA LLC

HUDSON INSURANCE COMPANY

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorney

SALEK KEITH

Defendant Attorneys

WEBB ERIC L.

ZEMANEK JOHN

 

Court Documents

Order (name extension) - Order Proposed Order

8/10/2021: Order (name extension) - Order Proposed Order

Notice of Ruling - Notice of Ruling

8/13/2021: Notice of Ruling - Notice of Ruling

Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees)

8/10/2021: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees)

Opposition (name extension) - Opposition to Plaintiff's Sur Reply in Support of Reply in Support of Motion for Attorneys' Fees

7/28/2021: Opposition (name extension) - Opposition to Plaintiff's Sur Reply in Support of Reply in Support of Motion for Attorneys' Fees

Objection (name extension) - Objection Evidentiary to Declaration of Mayda Saltzman

7/29/2021: Objection (name extension) - Objection Evidentiary to Declaration of Mayda Saltzman

Notice (name extension) - Notice of Tentative Ruling

6/30/2021: Notice (name extension) - Notice of Tentative Ruling

Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees)

6/30/2021: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees)

Objection (name extension) - Objection to declaration of Keith Salek, Esq.

6/17/2021: Objection (name extension) - Objection to declaration of Keith Salek, Esq.

Opposition (name extension) - Opposition to Plaintiff's Supplemental Brief in Support of Motion for Attorneys Fees

6/17/2021: Opposition (name extension) - Opposition to Plaintiff's Supplemental Brief in Support of Motion for Attorneys Fees

Reply (name extension) - Reply ISO Plaintiff's Supplemental Brief ISO Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs

6/18/2021: Reply (name extension) - Reply ISO Plaintiff's Supplemental Brief ISO Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs

Response (name extension) - Response to Defendant's Objections to Dec. of Keith S. Submitted ISO Supplemental Brief ISO Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs

6/18/2021: Response (name extension) - Response to Defendant's Objections to Dec. of Keith S. Submitted ISO Supplemental Brief ISO Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs

Declaration (name extension) - Declaration of Mayda S. ISO Plaintiff's Sur Reply ISOPlaintiff's Supplemental Brief ISO Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs

6/18/2021: Declaration (name extension) - Declaration of Mayda S. ISO Plaintiff's Sur Reply ISOPlaintiff's Supplemental Brief ISO Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs

Offer to Compromise and Acceptance Under Code of Civil Procedure Section 998 - Offer to Compromise and Acceptance Under Code of Civil Procedure Section 998

10/15/2020: Offer to Compromise and Acceptance Under Code of Civil Procedure Section 998 - Offer to Compromise and Acceptance Under Code of Civil Procedure Section 998

Judgment - Judgment By Court; On Stipulation

12/4/2020: Judgment - Judgment By Court; On Stipulation

Memorandum of Costs (Summary) - Memorandum of Costs (Summary)

12/17/2020: Memorandum of Costs (Summary) - Memorandum of Costs (Summary)

Notice (name extension) - Notice Notice of Entry of Judgment or Order

12/18/2020: Notice (name extension) - Notice Notice of Entry of Judgment or Order

Motion for Attorney Fees - Motion for Attorney Fees

1/6/2021: Motion for Attorney Fees - Motion for Attorney Fees

Memorandum of Points & Authorities - Memorandum of Points & Authorities

1/6/2021: Memorandum of Points & Authorities - Memorandum of Points & Authorities

39 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 08/13/2021
  • DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by: JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc. (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/10/2021
  • DocketMinute Order (Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees)

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  • 08/10/2021
  • DocketUpdated -- Order Proposed Order: Filed By: JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc. (Plaintiff); Result: Granted; Result Date: 08/10/2021

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  • 08/10/2021
  • DocketHearing on Motion for Attorney Fees scheduled for 08/10/2021 at 10:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 updated: Result Date to 08/10/2021; Result Type to Held - Motion Granted

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  • 07/29/2021
  • DocketObjection Evidentiary to Declaration of Mayda Saltzman; Filed by: Perugina LLC Erroneously Sued As Corr Contemporary Homes, LLC (Defendant)

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  • 07/28/2021
  • DocketOpposition to Plaintiff's Sur Reply in Support of Reply in Support of Motion for Attorneys' Fees; Filed by: Perugina LLC Erroneously Sued As Corr Contemporary Homes, LLC (Defendant)

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  • 06/30/2021
  • DocketHearing on Motion for Attorney Fees scheduled for 08/10/2021 at 10:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25

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  • 06/30/2021
  • DocketNotice of Tentative Ruling; Filed by: JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc. (Plaintiff); As to: Perugina LLC Erroneously Sued As Corr Contemporary Homes, LLC (Defendant)

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  • 06/30/2021
  • DocketMinute Order (Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees)

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  • 06/30/2021
  • DocketOn the Court's own motion, Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees scheduled for 06/30/2021 at 10:00 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 Held - Continued was rescheduled to 08/10/2021 10:30 AM

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54 More Docket Entries
  • 06/05/2019
  • DocketAnswer; Filed by: Corr Contemporary Homes, LLC (Defendant); As to: JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc. (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/08/2019
  • DocketProof of Service by Substituted Service; Filed by: JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc. (Plaintiff); As to: Corr Contemporary Homes, LLC (Defendant); Proof of Mailing Date: 05/02/2019; Service Cost: 55.00; Service Cost Waived: No

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  • 04/26/2019
  • DocketNon-Jury Trial scheduled for 10/22/2020 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94

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  • 04/26/2019
  • DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service scheduled for 04/28/2022 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94

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  • 04/26/2019
  • DocketCase assigned to Hon. James E. Blancarte in Department 94 Stanley Mosk Courthouse

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  • 04/25/2019
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by: JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc. (Plaintiff); As to: Corr Contemporary Homes, LLC (Defendant)

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  • 04/25/2019
  • DocketSummons on Complaint; Issued and Filed by: JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc. (Plaintiff); As to: Corr Contemporary Homes, LLC (Defendant)

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  • 04/25/2019
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by: JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc. (Plaintiff); As to: Corr Contemporary Homes, LLC (Defendant)

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  • 04/25/2019
  • DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case; Filed by: Clerk

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  • 04/25/2019
  • DocketFirst Amended Standing Order; Filed by: Clerk

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Tentative Rulings

b"

Case Number: 19STLC04088 Hearing Date: August 10, 2021 Dept: 25

PROCEEDINGS: MOTION\r\nFOR ATTORNEY’S FEES AND COSTS PURSUANT TO CIVIL CODE SECTION 1717

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MOVING PARTY: Plaintiff\r\nJH Plumbing Corporation, Inc.

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RESP. PARTY: Defendant Corr Contemporary Homes, LLC

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MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES

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(CCP §§ 1032, 1033.5, 1717)

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TENTATIVE RULING:

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Plaintiff JH Plumbing Corporation,\r\nInc.’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is GRANTED in the amount of $16,031.25.

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SERVICE: \r\n

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[X]\r\nProof of Service Timely Filed (CRC, rule 3.1300) OK

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[X]\r\nCorrect Address (CCP §§ 1013, 1013a) OK

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[X]\r\n16/21 Court Days Lapsed (CCP §§ 12c, 1005(b)) OK

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OPPOSITION: Filed on May 18, 2021 [ ] Late [ ]\r\nNone

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REPLY: Filed on May 24, 2021 [ ]\r\nLate [ ]\r\nNone

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ANALYSIS:

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I. \r\nBackground\r\n

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On April 25, 2019, Plaintiff JH Plumbing Corporation,\r\nInc. (“Plaintiff”) filed an action against Defendant Corr Contemporary Homes,\r\nLLC (“Corr Contemporary”) alleging, in pertinent part, breach of contract.\r\nPlaintiff filed an amendment to the Complaint on September 26, 2019\r\nsubstituting Perugina, LLC for Doe 1. A First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) was\r\nfiled on February 13, 2020 against Defendant Corr Contemporary and Hudson\r\nInsurance Company (“Hudson”).

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Pursuant to Plaintiff’s request, Defendants Hudson and\r\nPerugina, LLC were dismissed from the action on October 19, 2020. (10/13/20\r\nRequest for Dismissal.”)

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An Offer to Compromise and Acceptance Under Code of Civil\r\nProcedure section 998 was filed on October 15, 2020. Pursuant to the\r\ncompromise, Defendant Corr Contemporary agreed to pay Plaintiff $20,101.00 plus\r\ncosts under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032 and attorney’s fees to be\r\ndetermined by the Court. (10/15/20 Offer & Acceptance.) A judgment pursuant\r\nto the accepted 998 offer was entered on December 4, 2020. Plaintiff served a\r\nnotice of entry of judgment on Defendant Corr Contemporary on December 18, 2020\r\nvia regular mail. (12/18/20 Notice of Entry of Judgment.)

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On January 6, 2021, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion\r\nfor Attorney’s Fees and Costs (the “Motion”). On May 10, 2021, Plaintiff filed\r\nan Amended Motion. Defendant Corr Contemporary filed an opposition on May 18\r\nand Plaintiff filed a reply brief on May 24.

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The Court continued the initial June\r\n1 hearing and requested supplemental briefing regarding Plaintiff’s entitlement\r\nto attorney’s fees. (6/1/21 Minute Order.) The Court also requested that\r\nPlaintiff submit unredacted billing invoices so that the Court could determine\r\nthe reasonableness of Plaintiff’s fee request. (Id.)

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Plaintiff filed a supplemental brief\r\non June 3, Defendant filed a response and objection to Plaintiff’s supplemental\r\npapers on June 17, and Plaintiff filed a reply on June 18.

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At the continued June 30 hearing,\r\nthe Court found that Plaintiff attached a declaration purporting to\r\nauthenticate the parties’ contract in its reply papers and for this reason,\r\nDefendant had to be given an opportunity to respond to the new evidence.\r\n(6/30/21 Minute Order.)

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Defendant Corr Contemporary filed a\r\nresponse to the new evidence on July 28 and evidentiary objections on July 29.

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II. \r\nDefendant’s\r\nEvidentiary Objections

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Defendant’s objections to Mayda Saltzman’s June 18\r\ndeclaration are OVERRULED.

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III. \r\nLegal\r\nStandard

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A prevailing party is entitled to recover costs, including\r\nattorneys’ fees, as a matter of right. \r\n(Code Civ. Proc., § 1032, subd. (a)(4).) \r\nCivil Code section 1717 states in pertinent part: “[i]n any\r\naction on a contract, where the contract specifically provides that attorney's\r\nfees and costs, which are incurred to enforce that contract, shall be\r\nawarded either to one of the parties or to the prevailing party, then the party\r\nwho is determined to be the party prevailing on the contract, whether he or she is the party\r\nspecified in the contract or not, shall be entitled to reasonable attorney’s\r\nfees in addition to other costs.”\r\n(Civ. Code, § 1717, subd. (a).)

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“A notice of motion to claim\r\nattorney's fees for services up to and including the rendition of judgment in\r\nthe trial court . . . must be served and filed within the time for filing a\r\nnotice of appeal under . . . rules 8.822 and 8.823 in a limited civil case.”\r\n(Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1702, subd. (b)(1).) In a limited civil case, a\r\nnotice of appeal must be filed on or before the earliest of 30 days after\r\nservice of a document entitled “Notice of Entry” of judgment or 90 days after\r\nthe entry of judgment. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.822, subd. (a)(1).)

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The fee\r\nsetting inquiry in California ordinarily begins with the “lodestar” method,\r\ni.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable\r\nhourly rate. A computation of time spent\r\non a case and the reasonable value of that time is fundamental to a\r\ndetermination of an appropriate attorneys’ fee award. The lodestar figure may then be adjusted,\r\nbased on factors specific to the case, in order to fix the fee at the fair\r\nmarket value for the legal services provided. \r\n(Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20\r\nCal.3d 25, 49.) Such an approach anchors\r\nthe trial court’s analysis to an objective determination of the value of the\r\nattorney’s services, ensuring that the amount awarded is not arbitrary. (Id.,\r\nat p. 48, fn. 23.) After the trial court\r\nhas performed the lodestar calculations, it shall consider whether the total\r\naward so calculated under all of the circumstances of the case is more than a\r\nreasonable amount and, if so, shall reduce the section 1717 award so that it is\r\na reasonable figure. (PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th\r\n1084, 1095-1096.)

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As\r\nexplained in Graciano v. Robinson Ford\r\nSales, Inc. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 140, 154:

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“[T]he lodestar is the basic fee for comparable legal services in the\r\ncommunity; it may be adjusted by the court based on factors including, as\r\nrelevant herein, (1) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, (2)\r\nthe skill displayed in presenting them, (3) the extent to which the nature of\r\nthe litigation precluded other employment by the attorneys, (4) the contingent\r\nnature of the fee award. [Citation.] The purpose of such adjustment is to fix a\r\nfee at the fair market value for the particular action. In effect, the court\r\ndetermines, retrospectively, whether the litigation involved a contingent risk\r\nor required extraordinary legal skill justifying augmentation of the unadorned\r\nlodestar in order to approximate the fair market rate for such services. . . .\r\nThis approach anchors the trial court's analysis to an objective determination\r\nof the value of the attorney's services, ensuring that the amount awarded is\r\nnot arbitrary.” [Internal citations and internal quotation marks omitted.]

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(Graciano v. Robinson Ford Sales, Inc.\r\n(2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 140.) “It is well established that the determination of\r\nwhat constitutes reasonable attorney fees is committed to the discretion of the\r\ntrial court, whose decision cannot be reversed in the absence of an abuse of\r\ndiscretion. [Citations.] The value of\r\nlegal services performed in a case is a matter in which the trial court has its\r\nown expertise. . . . The trial court makes its determination after\r\nconsideration of a number of factors, including the nature of the litigation,\r\nits difficulty, the amount involved, the skill required in its handling, the\r\nskill employed, the attention given, the success or failure, and other\r\ncircumstances in the case. \r\n[Citations.]” (Melnyk v. Robledo (1976) 64 Cal.App.3d\r\n618, 623-624.)

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No\r\nspecific findings reflecting the court’s calculations are required. The record need only show that the attorney\r\nfees were awarded according to the “lodestar” or “touchstone” approach. The court’s focus in evaluating the facts\r\nshould be to provide a fee award reasonably designed to completely compensate\r\nattorneys for the services provided. The\r\nstarting point for this determination is the attorney’s time records. (Horsford v. Board of Trustees of Calif.\r\nState Univ. (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 359, 395-397 [verified time records\r\nentitled to credence absent clear indication they are erroneous].) However, California case law permits fee\r\nawards in the absence of detailed time sheets. (Sommers v. Erb (1992) 2\r\nCal.App.4th 1644, 1651; Dunk v. Ford\r\nMotor Co. (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 1794, 1810; Nightingale v. Hyundai Motor America (1994) 31 Cal.App.4th 99,\r\n103.) An experienced trial judge is in a\r\nposition to assess the value of the professional services rendered in his or\r\nher court. (Id.; Serrano v. Priest\r\n(1977) 20 Cal.3d 25, 49; Wershba v. Apple\r\nComputer, Inc. (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 224, 255.)

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IV. \r\nDiscussion\r\n

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Plaintiff’s Motion is timely and it is undisputed that it\r\nis the prevailing party as a judgment was entered in its favor on December 4,\r\n2020 pursuant to the parties’ compromise. Plaintiff’s Amended Motion and\r\nsupplemental briefs indicate it seeks attorney’s fees of $22,491.50, but its\r\nMay 24 reply brief and invoices indicate Plaintiff seeks $22,815.50 (5/24/21\r\nReply, p. 9; 6/3/21 Salek Decl., ¶ 4, Exh. 3.) \r\n

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A. Entitlement to Attorney’s Fees

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In its moving papers, Plaintiff argued it is entitled to\r\nattorney’s fees because this action is based on a contract that contains an\r\nattorney’s fees provision. (Amended Mot., p. 4.) The Court noted that\r\nPlaintiff’s moving papers did not include a copy of the parties’ alleged\r\ncontract with the applicable attorney’s fees provision nor was an agreement\r\nattached to the FAC. (6/1/21 Minute Order.) Plaintiff attached a copy of the\r\ncontract in its reply papers, but without authentication. (Id.) The\r\nCourt also concluded Defendant should be allowed to respond to the new evidence\r\npresented in reply. (Id.)

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On June 18, 2021, Plaintiff submitted the declaration of\r\nMayda Saltzman (“Saltzman”). Saltzman states she is Plaintiff’s Office Manager and\r\nthat in her capacity as such, she is familiar with how contracts are created.\r\n(6/18/21 Saltzman Decl., ¶¶ 2-3.) She reattaches a copy of the contract\r\npreviously submitted and identifies it as a true and correct copy of the\r\nparties’ contract. (Id. at ¶ 6, Exh. 1.) In Defendant Corr Contemporary’s\r\nresponse, it argues the contract remains insufficiently authenticated and that\r\nit must have been authenticated by a custodian of records or signatory.\r\n(7/28/21 Def. Supp. Brief, p. 3.) However, a document is authenticated when\r\nsufficient evidence has been produced to uphold a finding that the document is\r\nwhat it purports to be. (Evid. Code, § 1400.) The Court finds Saltzman’s\r\ndeclaration to be sufficient. Defendant has not cited any authority\r\ndemonstrating otherwise.

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At the June 1\r\nhearing, the Court also noted that the contract included a provision which\r\nrequired that the party seeking to commence an action, before doing so, was\r\nrequired to attempt to resolve the matter through mediation. (6/1/21 Minute\r\nOrder.) Failure or refusal to do so would preclude an award of\r\nattorney’s fees, even if the party prevailed in an action on the contract. (Id.)\r\nIn its supplemental papers filed on June 3, Plaintiff’s counsel provided a copy\r\nof letter dated April 16, 2019. (6/3/21 Salek Decl., ¶ 3, Exh. 2.) The letter\r\nrequesting alternative dispute resolution of the parties’ dispute was\r\novernighted to Defendant Corr Contemporary, requested a response by Friday\r\nApril 19, 2019, and warned that failure to accept mediation would result in a\r\nlawsuit being filed. (Id.) In its July 28 response, Defendant argues\r\nPlaintiff provided an unreasonable amount of time for Defendant Corr\r\nContemporary to respond to the demand, barring Plaintiff from recovering any\r\nattorney’s fees. (7/28/21 Def. Supp. Brief, p. 4.) However, Defendant\r\ncites no provision in the parties’ contract setting forth a specific length of\r\nnotice required. Nor did Defendant argue it did not receive this overnight\r\ndemand. Thus, the Court finds this insufficient to deny Plaintiff’s request for\r\nattorney’s fees.

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Thus, the Court finds Plaintiff has established it is\r\nentitled to attorney’s fees as the prevailing party on the contract.

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B. Reasonableness of Attorney’s Fees

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On June 1, the Court noted that Plaintiff had submitted\r\nheavily redacted invoices making it difficult for the Court and Defendant Corr\r\nContemporary to evaluate the reasonableness of its request. (6/1/21 Minute\r\nOrder.) In its initial May 18 opposition, Defendant Corr Contemporary expressed\r\nconcern that at least some of the fees claimed by Plaintiff were incurred for\r\nwork related to Defendant Hudson and Perugina, which had been dismissed on\r\nOctober 19, 2020. (5/18/21 Oppo., p. 7; 10/13/20 Request for Dismissal.) In its\r\nMay 24 reply, Plaintiff represented the billings would show “there were no fees\r\nthat were attributable to [the] other [D]efendants.” (5/24/21 Reply, p. 8.)

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On June 3, 2021, Plaintiff submitted unredacted invoices.\r\n(6/3/21 Salek Decl., ¶ 3, Exh. 2.) The Court notes that, contrary to\r\nPlaintiff’s previous assertion that none of the fees claimed were incurred for\r\nwork related to Defendant Hudson or Perugina, as further discussed below, the\r\ninvoices demonstrate otherwise. (See id.)

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As mentioned above, Plaintiff’s invoices total $22,816.50\r\nin fees based on 77.1 hours of attorney time. (Id.) Defendant Corr\r\nContemporary heavily disputes Plaintiff’s invoices and takes issue with a large\r\nnumber of individual entries.

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First, Defendant argues that hours related to Perugina\r\nand Hudson should not be billed to Defendant Corr Contemporary because those\r\nDefendants were dismissed from the action. Relying on San Bernardino Valley\r\nAudubon Society, Inc. v. County of San Bernardino (1984) 155 Cal.App.3d\r\n738, Californians for Responsible Toxics\r\nManagement v. Kizer (1989) 211\r\nCal.App.3d 961, Sokolow v. County\r\nof San Mateo (1989) 213 Cal.App.3d\r\n231, and Friends of the Trails v.\r\nBlasius (2000) 78 Cal.App.4th 810,\r\nPlaintiff argues that liability for the prevailing parties’ fees may generally\r\nbe imposed on all losing parties, including real parties in interest. (6/18/21\r\nPlf. Supp. Brief, pp. 4-5.)

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However, Defendant Hudson and\r\nPerugina are not “losing” parties; they were dismissed, pursuant to Plaintiff’s\r\nrequest and without a finding of liability of those parties. Furthermore, the\r\ncases cited above are distinguishable as they involved Civil Code section 1021.5,\r\na statute for attorney’s fees for the advancement of important rights affecting\r\nthe public interest; they do not involve attorney’s fees for the enforcement of\r\na contract under Civil Code section 1717.

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Here, the Court finds that 12.2 hours of attorney time,\r\ntotaling $3,559.00, billed for matters entirely related to Defendant Hudson and\r\nDefendant Perugina, should not be billed to Defendant Corr Contemporary. “Once\r\na trial court determines entitlement to an award of attorney fees, apportionment\r\nof that award rests within the court’s sound discretion. [Citation.] The burden\r\nis on the party complaining to establish that discretion was clearly abused and\r\na miscarriage of justice resulted. [Citation.]” (Calvo Fisher & Jacob\r\nLLP v. Lujan (2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 608, 628.)

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Next, Defendant Corr Contemporary points out that, on 13 occasions,\r\nPlaintiff’s counsel billed .4 hours, totaling 5.2 hours and $1,534.00 in fees, to\r\n“review case status.” (6/17/21 Def. Supp. Brief, pp. 7-8.) In Plaintiff’s reply\r\nbrief, it states that these charges were incurred for “checking the court\r\ndocket and conducting weekly staff meetings regarding the status of the case.”\r\n(5/14/21 Reply, pp. 3-7.) However, Plaintiff’s invoices do not provide any\r\nfurther explanation about the necessity of spending this amount of time almost\r\nevery month to “review” the file. Nor does Plaintiff address this in its June\r\n18 reply to Defendant’s arguments. Thus, the Court declines to award $1,534.00\r\nin fees.

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Defendant Corr Contemporary also provides several email\r\nexchanges between Defendant Corr Contemporary’s counsel and Plaintiff’s\r\ncounsel, arguing that billing .4 hours (i.e., 24 minutes) for each exchange was\r\nunreasonable due to the very short length of these emails. (6/17/21 Def. Supp.\r\nBrief., pp. 10-12; Webb Decl., ¶¶ 8-14, Exhs. 5-12.) Having reviewed Defendant\r\nCorr Contemporary’s documentary evidence, the Court reduces the following entries:\r\n(1) 7/22/19 entry is reduced from .4 hours to .2 hours; (2) 7/25/19 entry is\r\nreduced from .4 hours to .2 hours; (3) 8/28/19 entry is reduced from .4 hours\r\nto .2 hours; (4) 10/15/19 entry is reduced from .4 hours to .2 hours; and\r\n8/27/20 entry is reduced from .6 hours to .3 hours. (Id.)

\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n

Having reviewed the invoices, the Court finds several of\r\nPlaintiff’s counsel’s entries excessive and makes the following reductions: (1)\r\n10/15/20 entry for preparing a form acceptance of Defendant Corr\r\nContemporary’s 998 offer is reduced from 1.5 hours to .75 hours; (2) 12/7/20\r\nentry for receiving and preparing a form notice of entry of judgment is\r\nreduced from 1.2 hours to .5 hours; (3) 12/17/20 entry for drafting and filing\r\nthe instant Motion is reduced from 5.5 hours to 3 hours; and (4) 5/11/21\r\namendments to the instant Motion are reduced from 1 hour to .5 hours.

\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n

However, the Court declines to reduce the hours billed\r\nfor propounding discovery or reviewing discovery responses, declines to\r\nattribute only 1/3 of the remaining attorney’s fees to Defendant Corr Contemporary,\r\nand declines to make any further reductions that are not supported by\r\ndocumentary evidence. (6/17/21 Def. Supp. Brief, pp. 8-10, 12-14.)

\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n

In sum, having considered\r\nPlaintiff’s invoices and Defendant Corr Contemporary’s documentary evidence in\r\nopposition to the fees sought, the Court finds fees of $16,031.25, based on 54.15\r\nhours of attorney time, to be reasonable. Defendant Corr Contemporary argues\r\nthat the amount of attorney’s fees incurred is unreasonable given that this\r\nlimited action involved disputed damages of only $17,515.00. (5/18/21 Def.\r\nOppo., p. 2.) However, as Plaintiff points out, an award of attorney’s fees may\r\nexceed the damages sought in the complaint. (See Clayton Development Co. v.\r\nFalvey (1988) 206 Cal.App.3d 438, 438-39.)

\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n

Finally, Defendant Corr Contemporary\r\nargues that, at most, Plaintiff was owed $13,220.16, and the amount over that\r\nfigure included in the 998 offer was provided for “interest and convenience,”\r\nand that Plaintiff’s brief did not dispute that its “best case” estimate of\r\n$13,220.16 was incorrect. (6/17/21 Def. Supp. Brief, p. 2; 7/28/21 Def. Supp.\r\nBrief, pp. 3, 5-6.) However, this argument is not persuasive as the amount of\r\ndamages is no longer at issue.

\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n

V. \r\nConclusion\r\n& Order

\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff\r\nJH Plumbing Corporation, Inc.’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is GRANTED in the\r\namount of $16,031.25.

\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n

Moving party is ordered to give\r\nnotice.

"

Case Number: 19STLC04088    Hearing Date: June 1, 2021    Dept: 25

PROCEEDINGS: MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES AND COSTS PURSUANT TO CIVIL CODE SECTION 1717

MOVING PARTY: Plaintiff JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc.

RESP. PARTY: Defendant Corr Contemporary Homes, LLC

MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES

(CCP §§ 1032, 1033.5, 1717)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Plaintiff JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc.’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is CONTINUED TO JUNE 30, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. in Department 25 at the SPRING STREET COURTHOUSE. At least 16 court days before the next scheduled hearing, Plaintiff must file and serve supplemental papers addressing the issues discussed herein. Failure to do so may result in the Motion being placed off calendar or denied. Defendant may file a response at least 9 days before the next scheduled hearing.

SERVICE:

[X] Proof of Service Timely Filed (CRC, rule 3.1300) OK

[X] Correct Address (CCP §§ 1013, 1013a) OK

[X] 16/21 Court Days Lapsed (CCP §§ 12c, 1005(b)) OK

OPPOSITION: Filed on May 18, 2021 [ ] Late [ ] None

REPLY: Filed on May 24, 2021 [ ] Late [ ] None

ANALYSIS:

I. Background

On April 25, 2019, Plaintiff JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc. (“Plaintiff”) filed an action against Defendant Corr Contemporary Homes, LLC (“Corr Contemporary”) alleging, in pertinent part, breach of contract. Plaintiff filed an amendment to the Complaint on September 26, 2019 substituting Perugina, LLC for Doe 1. A First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) was filed on February 13, 2020 against Defendant Corr Contemporary and Hudson Insurance Company (“Hudson”).

Pursuant to Plaintiff’s request, Defendants Hudson and Perugina, LLC were dismissed from the action on October 19, 2020. (10/13/20 Request for Dismissal.”)

An Offer to Compromise and Acceptance Under Code of Civil Procedure section 998 was filed on October 15, 2020. Pursuant to the compromise, Defendant Corr Contemporary agreed to pay Plaintiff $20,101.00 plus costs under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032 and attorney’s fees to be determined by the Court. (10/15/20 Offer.) A judgment pursuant to the compromise was entered on December 4, 2020. Plaintiff served a notice of entry of judgment on Defendant Corr Contemporary on December 18, 2020 via regular mail. (12/18/20 Notice of Entry of Judgment.)

On January 6, 2021, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs (the “Motion”).

Plaintiff filed an ex parte application for attorney’s fees or, in the alternative, for an order shortening time to hear the Motion on January 20, 2021. After hearing oral argument from both parties, the Court denied the application, finding Plaintiff did not make the required showing of immediate and irreparable harm. (1/21/21 Minute Order.)

On May 10, 2021, Plaintiff filed an Amended Motion. Defendant Corr Contemporary filed an opposition on May 18 and Plaintiff filed a reply brief on May 24.

II. Legal Standard

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 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.)

III. Discussion

Plaintiff’s Motion is timely and it is undisputed that it is the prevailing party as a judgment was entered in its favor on December 4, 2020 pursuant to the parties’ compromise.

Plaintiff now seeks attorney’s fees of $22,491.50. (Amended Notice, p. 2.)

A. Entitlement to Attorney’s Fees

Plaintiff argues it is entitled to attorney’s fees because this action was based on a contract that contains an attorney’s fees provision. (Amended Mot., p. 4.) However, Plaintiff’s moving papers do not include a copy of the contract or even quote the applicable attorney’s fees provision. As Defendant Corr Contemporary points out, the FAC also does not attach a copy of the parties’ agreement containing an attorney’s fees provision. Relying on Otworth v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co. (1985) 166 Cal.App.3d 452, 459, Plaintiff argues a copy of the contract is not required. (Reply, p. 3.) Plaintiff’s reliance on Otworth is unclear. While the Court in Otworth did consider an award of attorney’s fees and costs, it did so in the context of awarding sanctions for filing a frivolous appeal (id. at p. 461), not on a motion for attorney’s fees.

Plaintiff also argues as follows: “Defendant first states that Plaintiff has failed to attach and authenticate a contract the [sic] permits the award of attorney’s fees stating that this is ‘necessary’ evidence. Defendant fails to cite any case law for this false proposition.” (Reply, p. 3.) Plaintiff further argues that “this is not trial and therefore no evidence is necessary.” (Id.) The Court rejects Plaintiff’s unsupported argument that a Court must award attorney’s fees on a contract based on Plaintiff’s and Plaintiff’s counsel’s word alone. Plaintiff has cited no authority demonstrating the Court is required to do so.

In its reply brief and without authentication, Plaintiff belatedly attaches a copy of the parties’ Plumbing Contract. (Reply, Exh. 3.) As Defendant Corr Contemporary points out, evidence submitted in reply papers is generally not permitted. (Oppo., p. 4; Jay v. Mahaffey (2013) 218 Cal.App.4th 1522, 1537.) If permitted, the opposing party should be allowed to respond. (Id.) Thus, Defendant Corr Contemporary must be given an opportunity to respond to Plaintiff’s new evidence before the Court issues a ruling.

For the sake of completeness, the Court also notes the following. The Plumbing Contract attached to Plaintiff’s reply papers references attorney’s fees in two different paragraphs. The first time is in Paragraph 6 entitled Dispute Resolution. (Reply, Exh. 3.) That paragraph discusses that any claims or disputes arising or related to the Plumbing Contract must be submitted to mediation, and if mediation fails, then to arbitration. (Id.) Notably, it also states the following:

“If, for any dispute or claim to which this paragraph applies, any party commences an action without first attempting to resolve the matter through mediation, or refuses to mediate after a request has been made, then that party shall not be entitled to recover attorney fees, even if that party would otherwise be entitled to attorney fees under the provisions of paragraph 20.

(Id.) (Emphasis added.)

The Plumbing Contract only includes 15 paragraphs, however, so the reference to paragraph 20 appears to be a typo. Paragraph 11 contains the provision that authorizes attorney’s fees for the prevailing party in an action on the contract. (Id.)

Plaintiff did not discuss Paragraph 6 or demonstrate he either satisfied its requirements or was not required to do so.

Thus, Plaintiff has not established that it is entitled to attorney’s fees.

B. Reasonableness of Request

For the first time in its reply papers, Plaintiff included copies of Plaintiff’s counsel’s invoices for this action. (Reply, Exh. 4.) As already discussed, new evidence in reply is generally not permissible and if it is to be considered, Defendant Corr Contemporary must be allowed to respond.

Given the amount of attorney’s fees sought in this limited jurisdiction case, the Court finds it necessary to examine Plaintiff’s counsel’s invoices. However, the invoices are heavily redacted. Indeed, none of the invoices include any description for the hours billed and only include a breakdown of the hours. (Id.) This does not allow the Court or Defendant Corr Contemporary the opportunity to evaluate the reasonableness of the items billed. The Court recognizes Plaintiff’s argument that certain entries may implicate its attorney-client privilege. However, it is unlikely that every single entry is implicated given that Plaintiff’s reply brief provides a general summary of the actions performed. Thus, Plaintiff is ordered to file and serve invoices with reasonable redactions, if necessary, that permit the Court and Defendant Corr Contemporary to evaluate the reasonableness of Plaintiff’s requests. If the Court is unable to determine the reasonableness of a particular entry, it will decline to award attorney’s fees for that entry.

IV. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff JH Plumbing Corporation, Inc.’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is CONTINUED TO JUNE 30, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. in Department 25 at the SPRING STREET COURTHOUSE. At least 16 court days before the next scheduled hearing, Plaintiff must file and serve supplemental papers addressing the issues discussed herein. Failure to do so may result in the Motion being placed off calendar or denied. Defendant may file a response at least 9 days before the next scheduled hearing.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

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