This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 01/09/2021 at 07:36:17 (UTC).

PALISADES SEASCAPES I ASSOCIATION, A CALIFORNIA NONPROFIT MUTUAL BENEFIT CORPORATION VS MOHSEN KHERADPEZHOUH, ET AL.

Case Summary

On 06/29/2020 PALISADES SEASCAPES I ASSOCIATION, A CALIFORNIA NONPROFIT MUTUAL BENEFIT CORPORATION filed a Property - Other Real Property lawsuit against MOHSEN KHERADPEZHOUH. 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 Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    *******5456

  • Filing Date:

    06/29/2020

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Property - Other Real Property

  • Courthouse:

    Spring Street Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Judge

JAMES E. BLANCARTE

 

Party Details

Plaintiff

PALISADES SEASCAPES I ASSOCIATION A CALIFORNIA NONPROFIT MUTUAL BENEFIT CORPORATION

Defendants

KHERADPEZHOUH MOHSEN

SAHELI GEZEL

MOHSEN KHERADPEZHOUH AND GEZEL SAHELI TRUSTEES OF THE MKH REVOCABLE TRUST DATED MAY 8 2012

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorney

SWEDELSON DAVID

Defendant Attorney

YASHAR PANTEA

 

Court Documents

Response (name extension) - Response to Ex Party Application for TRO & OSC

9/4/2020: Response (name extension) - Response to Ex Party Application for TRO & OSC

Minute Order - Minute Order (Order to Show Cause Re: Preliminary Injunction)

9/2/2020: Minute Order - Minute Order (Order to Show Cause Re: Preliminary Injunction)

Proof of Personal Service - Proof of Personal Service

8/13/2020: Proof of Personal Service - Proof of Personal Service

Request for Entry of Default / Judgment - Request for Entry of Default / Judgment

8/13/2020: Request for Entry of Default / Judgment - Request for Entry of Default / Judgment

Proof of Service by Substituted Service - Proof of Service by Substituted Service

8/13/2020: Proof of Service by Substituted Service - Proof of Service by Substituted Service

Notice of Rejection Default/Clerk's Judgment - Notice of Rejection Default/Clerk's Judgment

8/13/2020: Notice of Rejection Default/Clerk's Judgment - Notice of Rejection Default/Clerk's Judgment

Notice of Ruling - Notice of Ruling

8/20/2020: Notice of Ruling - Notice of Ruling

Proof of Personal Service - Proof of Personal Service

8/21/2020: Proof of Personal Service - Proof of Personal Service

Ex Parte Application (name extension) - Ex Parte Application Application for TRO and OSC re Preliminary Injunction Restraining Defts.' Unauthorized Construction

7/1/2020: Ex Parte Application (name extension) - Ex Parte Application Application for TRO and OSC re Preliminary Injunction Restraining Defts.' Unauthorized Construction

Declaration (name extension) - Declaration of Debbie Langford ISO Ex Parte Application by Plaintiff for a Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause re Preliminary Injunction Retraining Defen

7/1/2020: Declaration (name extension) - Declaration of Debbie Langford ISO Ex Parte Application by Plaintiff for a Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause re Preliminary Injunction Retraining Defen

Declaration (name extension) - Declaration of Alexandra Samofalova ISO Ex Parte Application by Plaintiff for a Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause re Preliminary Injunction Retraining

7/1/2020: Declaration (name extension) - Declaration of Alexandra Samofalova ISO Ex Parte Application by Plaintiff for a Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause re Preliminary Injunction Retraining

Request for Judicial Notice - Request for Judicial Notice

7/1/2020: Request for Judicial Notice - Request for Judicial Notice

Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Ex Parte Application Application for TRO and OSC r...)

7/6/2020: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Ex Parte Application Application for TRO and OSC r...)

Civil Case Cover Sheet - Civil Case Cover Sheet

6/29/2020: Civil Case Cover Sheet - Civil Case Cover Sheet

Summons - Summons on Complaint

6/29/2020: Summons - Summons on Complaint

Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case - Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case

6/29/2020: Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case - Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case

Complaint - Complaint

6/29/2020: Complaint - Complaint

First Amended Standing Order - First Amended Standing Order

6/29/2020: First Amended Standing Order - First Amended Standing Order

9 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 07/03/2023
  • Hearing07/03/2023 at 08:30 AM in Department 25 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Order to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service

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  • 12/27/2021
  • Hearing12/27/2021 at 08:30 AM in Department 25 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Non-Jury Trial

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  • 09/04/2020
  • DocketResponse to Ex Party Application for TRO & OSC; Filed by: Mohsen Kheradpezhouh (Defendant); Gezel Saheli (Defendant); Mohsen Kheradpezhouh and Gezel Saheli, Trustees of the MKH Revocable Trust dated may 8, 2012 (Defendant)

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  • 09/02/2020
  • DocketMinute Order (Order to Show Cause Re: Preliminary Injunction)

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  • 09/02/2020
  • DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Preliminary Injunction scheduled for 09/02/2020 at 09:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 updated: Result Date to 09/02/2020; Result Type to Held

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  • 08/28/2020
  • DocketAnswer; Filed by: Mohsen Kheradpezhouh (Defendant); Gezel Saheli (Defendant); Mohsen Kheradpezhouh and Gezel Saheli, Trustees of the MKH Revocable Trust dated may 8, 2012 (Defendant)

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  • 08/21/2020
  • DocketProof of Personal Service; Filed by: Palisades Seascapes I Association, a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation (Plaintiff); As to: Mohsen Kheradpezhouh (Defendant); Gezel Saheli (Defendant); Mohsen Kheradpezhouh and Gezel Saheli, Trustees of the MKH Revocable Trust dated may 8, 2012 (Defendant); Service Date: 07/09/2020; Service Cost: 75.00; Service Cost Waived: Yes

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  • 08/20/2020
  • DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by: Palisades Seascapes I Association, a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/13/2020
  • DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Preliminary Injunction scheduled for 09/02/2020 at 09:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25

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  • 08/13/2020
  • DocketProof of Personal Service; Filed by: Palisades Seascapes I Association, a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation (Plaintiff); As to: Gezel Saheli (Defendant); Service Date: 07/02/2020; Service Cost: 90.00; Service Cost Waived: Yes

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12 More Docket Entries
  • 07/01/2020
  • DocketDeclaration of Alexandra Samofalova ISO Ex Parte Application by Plaintiff for a Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause re Preliminary Injunction Retraining Defendants' Construction; Filed by: Palisades Seascapes I Association, a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation (Plaintiff)

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  • 07/01/2020
  • DocketDeclaration of Debbie Langford ISO Ex Parte Application by Plaintiff for a Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause re Preliminary Injunction Retraining Defendants' Construction; Filed by: Palisades Seascapes I Association, a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation (Plaintiff)

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  • 06/30/2020
  • DocketNon-Jury Trial scheduled for 12/27/2021 at 08:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25

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  • 06/30/2020
  • DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service scheduled for 07/03/2023 at 08:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25

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  • 06/30/2020
  • DocketCase assigned to Hon. James E. Blancarte in Department 25 Spring Street Courthouse

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  • 06/29/2020
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by: Palisades Seascapes I Association, a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation (Plaintiff); As to: Mohsen Kheradpezhouh (Defendant); Gezel Saheli (Defendant)

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  • 06/29/2020
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by: Palisades Seascapes I Association, a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation (Plaintiff); As to: Mohsen Kheradpezhouh (Defendant); Gezel Saheli (Defendant)

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  • 06/29/2020
  • DocketSummons on Complaint; Issued and Filed by: Palisades Seascapes I Association, a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation (Plaintiff); As to: Mohsen Kheradpezhouh (Defendant); Gezel Saheli (Defendant)

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  • 06/29/2020
  • DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case; Filed by: Clerk

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  • 06/29/2020
  • DocketFirst Amended Standing Order; Filed by: Clerk

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: 20STLC05456    Hearing Date: April 12, 2021    Dept: 25

HEARING DATE: Mon., April 12, 2021 JUDGE /DEPT: Blancarte/25

CASE NAME: Palisades Seascapes I Association v. Kheradpezhouh, et al.

CASE NUMBER: 20STLC05456 COMP. FILED: 06-29-20

NOTICE: OK DISC. C/O: 11-27-21

DISC. MOT. C/O: 12-12-21

TRIAL DATE: 12-27-21

PROCEEDINGS: MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES AND COSTS

MOVING PARTY: Plaintiff Palisades Seascapes I Association

RESP. PARTY: Defendants Moshen Kheradpezhouh and Gezel Saheli

MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES

(CCP §§ 1032, 1033.5; Civ. Code § 5975)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Plaintiff Palisades Seascapes I Association’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is GRANTED in the amount of $14,349.04 based on attorney’s fees of $13,580.50 and costs of $768.54.

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 March 11, 2021 [ ] Late [ ] None

REPLY: Filed on March 17, 2021 [ ] Late [ ] None

ANALYSIS:

  1. Background

On June 29, 2020, Plaintiff Palisades Seascapes I Association (“Plaintiff”) filed an action against Defendants Moshen Kheradpezhouh (“Kheradpezhouh”) and Gezel Saheli (“Saheli”) as Trustees of the MKH Revocable Trust dated May 8, 2012 (collectively, “Defendants”). The Complaint alleged Defendants are the owners of record of a unit within a condominium development located at 16778 Calle de Catalina, Pacific Palisades, CA, APN 4431-042-046 (the “Unit”). (Compl., ¶¶ 2-3.) The Unit is governed by a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions and Reservation of Easements for Palisades Seascapes I (the “CC&Rs”). With this action, Plaintiff sought to enjoin Defendants from continuing unapproved construction work on the Unit until they submitted an application for approval to Plaintiff pursuant to the CC&Rs. (Id. at ¶ 13.)

Plaintiff filed an ex parte application for a temporary restraining order and OSC re preliminary injunction to restrain Defendants’ unauthorized construction on July 1, 2020. Following the Court’s review of Plaintiff’s papers in chambers, the ex parte application for a TRO was granted and an OSC re a preliminary injunction was scheduled for August 13, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. (7/6/20 Minute Order.) Defendants did not appear at the July 6, 2020 hearing on the ex parte application. (Id.)

The Court continued the August 13, 2020 hearing to September 2, 2020 and ordered Plaintiff to give notice of the hearing and to file a proof of service demonstrating Defendants were served with the Summons and Complaint. (8/13/20 Minute Order.)

On August 28, 2020, Defendants filed an Answer.

At the continued September 2 OSC hearing, Plaintiff informed the Court the parties’ issues had been resolved and made an oral request to withdraw its preliminary injunction request. The Court accepted Plaintiff’s representation, discharged the order to show cause, and noted the trial remained scheduled for December 27, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. (9/2/20 Minute Order.)

On February 25, 2021, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs (the “Motion”). Defendants filed an Opposition on March 11 and Plaintiff filed a Reply on March 17.

At the initial March 24, 2021 hearing on the Motion, counsel for Defendants noted they filed supplemental declarations. (3/24/21 Minute Order.) In light of the late filings, the Court did not adopt its tentative ruling and continued the hearing so that the Court could review those supplemental declarations. (Id.)

  1. 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).) In addition, in an action to enforce the covenants and restrictions in a declaration, the prevailing party shall be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. (Civ. Code, § 5975, subd. (c).)

“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.)

  1. Discussion

A. Prevailing Party

“A plaintiff prevails, in essence, when he gets most or all of what he wanted by filing the action. ‘A plaintiff will be considered a prevailing party when the lawsuit “was a catalyst motivating defendants to provide the primary relief sought” or succeeded in “activating defendants to modify their behavior.’ [Citation.]” (Elster v. Friedman (1989) 211 Cal.App.3d 1439, 1443-44.)

Plaintiff sought (1) to obtain Defendants’ compliance with the CC&Rs’ required architectural review procedure for any construction-related modification of Defendants’ Unit and (2) orders enjoining Defendants from continuing construction work on their Unit until they complied with the required review procedure. (Mot., p. 7:17-21, pp. 9:25-5, pp. 17:12-16.) Plaintiff was successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order preventing Defendants from performing construction work on their Unit until they obtained Plaintiff’s written approval for their construction plans. (Id. at p. 19:1-7; 7/6/20 Minute Order.) No further injunctive relief was required as Defendants complied with the CC&Rs’ architectural review process when they submitted their construction plans for Plaintiff’s review and approval on July 22, 2020. (Id., p. 19:1-7, Swedelson Decl., ¶ 16, Langford Decl., ¶ 7.)

Thus, Plaintiff has demonstrated it achieved its litigation objectives and thus is entitled to be declared the prevailing party. Notably, Defendants’ Opposition does not dispute Plaintiff is the prevailing party.

B. Entitlement to Fees

Here, the CC&Rs include the following provision:

“Any judgment rendered in any action or proceeding pursuant to this Declaration shall include a sum for attorney’s fees in such amount as the court or arbitrator, as applicable, may deem reasonable, in favor of the prevailing party, as well as the amount of any delinquent payment interest thereon, costs of collection, and costs of court or alternative dispute resolution as applicable.”

(Compl., Exh. 1, § 15.)

Thus, Plaintiff, as the prevailing party is entitled to recover its attorney’s fees pursuant to the CC&Rs. In addition, because Plaintiff brought this action to enforce the CC&Rs, Plaintiff is also entitled to recover its fees under Civil Code section 5975, subdivision (c).

C. Defendants’ Arguments

In Opposition, Defendants raise several arguments for the proposition that Plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees and costs should be denied in its entirety or significantly reduced.

First, Defendants argue that under Section 15.1(d) of the CC&Rs, Plaintiff was required to give Defendants written notice before it sought injunctive relief under Section 15.1(a). (Oppo., p. 7:13-21.) However, as Plaintiff points out, these sections pertain to an owner’s failure to maintain or repair their unit, not to new construction. (Compl., Exh. A., § 15.1.)

Second, Defendants argue Plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees should be disregarded or drastically reduced as a result of Plaintiff’s counsel’s block-billing practice. (Oppo., pp. 8:18-24.) However, block billing is not objectionable per se. (Christian Research Institute v. Alnor (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1315, 1325.) Block billing may be objectionable where the billing is vague. (See id.) Having reviewed Plaintiff’s counsel’s invoice, most entries are for blocks of 1 hour or less and are sufficiently described for the Court to determine whether the time expended is reasonable. (Mot., Swedelson Decl., ¶ 23, Exh. 1.) The Court discusses those entries that are insufficiently described in greater detail in Subsection D below.

Third, Defendants argue Plaintiff should not be permitted to recover any attorney’s fees after it obtained its litigation objective, i.e., after July 6, 2020 when Plaintiff obtained a temporary restraining order. (Id., pp. 11:15-13:6.) However, obtaining a TRO was not Plaintiff’s sole objective. As discussed above, Plaintiff’s objective was to ensure Defendants did not continue their construction project until they complied with the CC&Rs’ architectural review procedure. Defendants’ full compliance was not achieved on July 6, 2020.

Fourth, Defendants argue Plaintiff should not be permitted to recover fees incurred before this action was filed on June 29, 2020. (Oppo., pp. 13:7-14:13.) However, as Plaintiff points out in its Reply, attorney’s fees and costs incurred before filing an action are recoverable. (Stokus v. Marsh (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 647, 655-656.) In Stokus, the Court held:

“Civil Code section 1717, the statutory basis for fees in this action, provides for ‘reasonable attorney’s fees in addition to other costs.’ (Civ. Code, § 1717, subd. (a).) Nothing in that section precludes compensation for fees incurred prior to filing the complaint, where fees were reasonably and necessarily incurred at that time by the prevailing party. Indeed, by requiring only that the fee award be ‘reasonable’ the statute supports the opposite conclusion.”

(Id.) (Emphasis added.)

Fifth, Defendants argue Plaintiff did not make a reasonable effort to meet and confer before filing this action and seeking injunctive relief. (Oppo., pp. 15:12-16:7.) However, Plaintiff’s evidence demonstrates that Defendants were served with a letter demanding they cease and desist from any further construction work via regular mail and email on June 19, 2020. (Mot., Samofalova Decl., ¶¶ 4-5, Exhs. 1, 2.) Defendants dispute receiving any communication from Plaintiff prior to the action being commenced. (Oppo., pp. 3:26-4:12.) Even if no communication via mail was received, Plaintiff’s evidence demonstrates Defendants received notice via email. Specifically, Plaintiff’s counsel sent an email to kherad@hotmail.com and to hazalsaheli@yahoo.com on June 19, 2020. (Mot., Samofalova Decl., ¶¶ 4-5, Exhs. 1, 2.) Plaintiff concedes the hazalsaheli@yahoo.com email address was incorrect and that the email sent to that address on June 19, 2020 bounced back. (Id.) However, the email to kherad@hotmail.com did not bounce back. (Id.) Plaintiff’s counsel resent the email with the letter attachment on June 22, 2020 to the correct email address, ghazalsaheli@yahoo.com. (Id.) Defendants’ own evidence demonstrates they used the ghazalsaheli@yahoo.com email address to communicate with Plaintiff in July 2020. (Oppo., Saheli Decl., ¶¶ 6, 11, Exhs. A, B.) Thus, the Court is not persuaded Defendants did not receive any communication from Plaintiff before this action was filed.

In their supplemental declarations, both Defendants maintain they were never served via mail or email. (3/24/21 Saheli Supp. Decl., ¶¶ 2-3; Kheradpezhouh Supp. Decl., ¶¶ 2-3.) In doing so, they accuse Plaintiffs’ attorneys of falsifying evidence, stating the emails attached to Plaintiff’s Motion “are either forged or were never actually sent either since nothing was ever received, and they were not in [their] inbox or spam folder when [they] looked.” (Id.) The Court is unpersuaded. Defendants make these accusations without any evidence. Further, the emails submitted by Plaintiff have time stamps and were sent to two different email addresses which Defendants have not argued are incorrect. The Court has no reason to believe the evidence submitted is falsified.

Defendants also include a link to what they state is a YouTube video of the July 1, 2020 conversation with Plaintiff’s counsel regarding the lawsuit and TRO. (Id.) Defendants state this conversation confirms that they had no knowledge of any issues with the construction work on their unit and never received any cease and desist demand. (Id.) The link, however, leads to an error message. Even if the recording were available for the Court’s review, this still does not negate the fact that Defendants refused to comply with the architectural review process which required Plaintiff to move forward with the instant action.

D. Reasonableness of Attorney’s Fees and Costs Requested

Having reviewed the attached ledger, the Court finds some entries should be reduced or eliminated. First, Plaintiff seeks attorney’s fees of $6,850.00 for 18.7 hours spent in researching, drafting, revising, and finalizing the instant Motion. (Reply, Swedelson Decl., ¶ 1, Exh. 1.) Hours are further broken down as follows: 13.8 hours for attorney Samofalova billed at $355.00 per hour, 4.3 hours for attorney Swedelson billed at $400.00 per hour, and 0.6 hours for two other attorneys billed at $385.00 per hour. (Id.) Plaintiff requests an additional $1,600.00 for reviewing the Opposition and preparing a Reply. (Mot., Swedelson Decl., ¶ 19.) However, this amount is unreasonable as Plaintiff’s attorneys spent an excessive amount of time drafting, revising, and re-revising the Motion, supporting declarations, and exhibits. The Court finds 3 hours for attorney Samofalova billed at $355.00 per hour and two hours for attorney Swedelson billed at $400.00 per hour, to be reasonable. This totals $1,865.00.

Plaintiff also seeks to collect fees of $2,398.50, based on 2.7 hours of attorney time spent by attorney Samofalova billed at $355.00 per hour and 3.6 hours of attorney time spent by attorney Swedelson billed at $400.00 per hour, for work related to a potential defamation lawsuit against Defendants. (Reply, Swedelson Decl., ¶ 1, Exh. 1.) However, this is a separate matter and should not be billed for in this action for enforcement of the CC&Rs.

The Court also declines to award the following:

The Court finds the remaining hours to be reasonable. Plaintiff’s counsel spent approximately 6.6 hours, amounting to fees of $2,321.00, for work related to the ex parte application and 3.2 hours, amounting to fees of $1,131.50, for work related to drafting and filing the Complaint. Plaintiff’s counsel also spent approximately 14.3 hours communicating with Plaintiff, Defendants, and Defendants’ counsel, which, having reviewed the entry descriptions, the Court finds to be reasonable. This amounts to fees of $5,396.50. Plaintiff’s attorneys spent an additional 5.9 hours researching and drafting a cease and desist letter to Defendants, preparing a demand and notice of hearing for the violation, attempting personal service of the Complaint and ex parte application, preparing proofs of service and declarations of due diligence, and reviewing Defendants’ answer and opposition to the preliminary injunction, amounting to fees of $1,986.50. Lastly, attorney Swedelson billed $880.00 for 2.2 hours spent attending three hearings. The Court finds the time spent and the rate charged to be reasonable in light of the work performed.

To summarize, the Court finds $13,580.50, based on 37.2 hours of attorney time, to be reasonable.

As for costs, the Court declines to award costs of $317.00 incurred for photocopies related to the defamation dispute. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks $105.00 in costs for the exhibits attached to the Complaint. (Id.) The ledger does not specify how many copies were made. (See id.) The Complaint contains 83 pages of exhibits. Thus, if one set of copies was made, each copy was billed at approximately $1.24, an unreasonable amount. Plaintiff also seeks $312.25 for approximately 224 pages of exhibits attached to the ex parte application and an additional $40.00 for approximately 99 pages of exhibits attached to the instant Motion. (Reply, Swedelson Decl., ¶ 1, Exh. 1.) Total photocopying costs are $457.25. (Id.) The amount sought appears excessive, and because Plaintiff has not specified exactly how many copies of each were made and the rate at which each copy was billed, the Court cannot find this amount reasonable. The Court finds 25% of this amount, $114.31, to be reasonable. Other costs sought include filing fees, service fees, and remote appearance fees. Having reviewed the costs sought, the Court finds them to be reasonable and awards $768.54.

Thus, the Court awards Plaintiff $14,349.04 in attorney’s fees and costs.

  1. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff Palisades Seascapes I Association’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is GRANTED in the amount of $14,349.04 based on attorney’s fees of $13,580.50 and costs of $768.54.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

Case Number: 20STLC05456    Hearing Date: March 24, 2021    Dept: 25

HEARING DATE: Wed., March 24, 2021 JUDGE /DEPT: Blancarte/25

CASE NAME: Palisades Seascapes I Association v. Kheradpezhouh, et al.

CASE NUMBER: 20STLC05456 COMP. FILED: 06-29-20

NOTICE: OK DISC. C/O: 11-27-21

DISC. MOT. C/O: 12-12-21

TRIAL DATE: 12-27-21

PROCEEDINGS: MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES AND COSTS

MOVING PARTY: Plaintiff Palisades Seascapes I Association

RESP. PARTY: Defendants Moshen Kheradpezhouh and Gezel Saheli

MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES

(CCP §§ 1032, 1033.5)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Plaintiff Palisades Seascapes I Association’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is GRANTED in the amount of $17,226.54 based on fees of $16,483.00 and costs of $743.54.

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 March 11, 2021 [ ] Late [ ] None

REPLY: Filed on March 17, 2021 [ ] Late [ ] None

ANALYSIS:

  1. Background

On June 29, 2020, Plaintiff Palisades Seascapes I Association (“Plaintiff”) filed an action against Defendants Moshen Kheradpezhouh (“Kheradpezhouh”) and Gezel Saheli (“Saheli”) as Trustees of the MKH Revocable Trust dated May 8, 2012 (collectively, “Defendants”). The Complaint alleged Defendants are the owners of record of a unit within a condominium development located at 16778 Calle de Catalina, Pacific Palisades, CA, APN 4431-042-046 (the “Unit”). (Compl., ¶¶ 2-3.) The Unit is governed by a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions and Reservation of Easements for Palisades Seascapes I (the “ACC&Rs”). With this action, Plaintiff sought to enjoin Defendants from continuing unapproved construction work on the Unit until they submitted an application for approval to Plaintiff pursuant to the CC&Rs. (Id. at ¶ 13.)

Plaintiff filed an ex parte application for a temporary restraining order and OSC re preliminary injunction to restrain Defendants’ unauthorized construction on July 1, 2020. Following the Court’s review of Plaintiff’s papers in chambers, the ex parte application for a temporary restraining order was granted and an OSC re a preliminary injunction was scheduled for August 13, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. (7/6/20 Minute Order.) Defendants did not appear at the July 6, 2020 hearing. (Id.)

The Court continued the August 13, 2020 hearing to September 2, 2020 and ordered Plaintiff to give notice of the hearing and to file a proof of service demonstrating Defendants were served with the Summons and Complaint. (8/13/20 Minute Order.)

On August 28, 2020, Defendants filed an Answer.

At the continued OSC hearing, Plaintiff informed the Court the parties’ issues had been resolved and made an oral request to withdraw the preliminary injunction. The Court accepted Plaintiff’s representation, discharged the order to show cause, and noted the trial remained scheduled for December 27, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. (9/2/20 Minute Order.)

On February 25, 2021, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs (the “Motion”). Defendants filed an Opposition on March 11 and Plaintiff filed a Reply on March 17.

  1. 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).) In addition, in an action to enforce the covenants and restrictions in a declaration, the prevailing party shall be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. (Civ. Code, § 5975, subd. (c).)

“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.)

  1. Discussion

A. Prevailing Party

“A plaintiff prevails, in essence, when he gets most or all of what he wanted by filing the action. ‘A plaintiff will be considered a prevailing party when the lawsuit “was a catalyst motivating defendants to provide the primary relief sought” or succeeded in “activating defendants to modify their behavior.’ [Citation.]” (Elster v. Friedman (1989) 211 Cal.App.3d 1439, 1443-44.)

Plaintiff sought (1) to obtain Defendants’ compliance with the CC&Rs’ required architectural review procedure for any construction-related modification of Defendants’ Unit and (2) orders enjoining Defendants from continuing construction work on their Unit until they complied with the required review procedure. (Mot., p. 7:17-21, pp. 9:25-5, pp. 17:12-16.) Plaintiff was successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order preventing Defendants from performing work on their Unit until they obtained Plaintiff’s written approval for their construction plans. (Id. at p. 19:1-7; 7/6/20 Minute Order.) No further injunctive relief was required as Defendants complied with the CC&R’s architectural review process when they submitted their construction plans for Plaintiff’s approval on July 22, 2020. (Id., p. 19:1-7, Swedelson Decl., ¶ 16, Langford Decl., ¶ 7.)

Thus, Plaintiff has demonstrated it achieved its litigation objectives and thus is entitled to be declared the prevailing party. Notably, Defendants’ Opposition does not dispute Plaintiff is the prevailing party.

B. Entitlement to Fees

Here, the CC&Rs include the following provision:

“Any judgment rendered in any action or proceeding pursuant to this Declaration shall include a sum for attorney’s fees in such amount as the court or arbitrator, as applicable, may deem reasonable, in favor of the prevailing party, as well as the amount of any delinquent payment interest thereon, costs of collection, and costs of court or alternative dispute resolution as applicable.”

(Compl., Exh. 1, § 15.)

Thus, Plaintiff, as the prevailing party is entitled to recover its attorney’s fees pursuant to the CC&Rs. In addition, because Plaintiff brought this action to enforce the CC&Rs, Plaintiff is also entitled to recover its fees under Civil Code section 5975, subdivision (c).

C. Defendants’ Arguments

In Opposition, Defendants raise several arguments for the proposition that Plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees and costs should be denied in its entirety or significantly reduced.

First, Defendants argue that pursuant to Section 15.1(d) of the CC&Rs, Plaintiff was required to give Defendants written notice pursuant to Section 15.1(a). (Oppo., p. 7:13-21.) However, as Plaintiff points out, section 15.1(a) pertains to an owner’s failure to maintain or repair their unit, not to new construction. (Compl., Exh. A., § 15.1(a).)

Second, Defendants argue Plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees should be disregarded or drastically reduced as a result of Plaintiff’s counsel’s block-billing practice. (Oppo., pp. 8:18-24.) However, block-billing is not objectionable per se. (Christian Research Institute v. Alnor (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1315, 1325.) Block-billing may be objectionable where the billing is vague. (See id.) Having reviewed Plaintiff’s counsel’s invoice, most entries are for blocks of 1 hour or less and are sufficiently described for the Court to determine whether the time expended is reasonable. (Mot., Swedelson Decl., ¶ 23, Exh. 1.)

Third, Defendants argue Plaintiff should not be permitted to recover any attorney’s fees after it obtained its litigation objective, i.e., after July 6, 2020 when Plaintiff obtained a temporary restraining order. (Id., pp. 11:15-13:6.) However, obtaining a TRO was not Plaintiff’s sole objective. As discussed above, Plaintiff’s objective was to ensure Defendants did not continue their construction project until they complied with the CC&R’s architectural review procedure. Defendants’ full compliance was not achieved on July 6, 2020.

Fourth, Defendants argue Plaintiff should not be permitted to recover fees incurred before this action was filed on June 29, 2020. (Oppo., pp. 13:7-14:13.) However, as Plaintiff points out in its Reply, attorney’s fees and costs incurred before filing an action are recoverable. (Stokus v. Marsh (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 647, 655-656.) In Stokus, the Court held:

“Civil Code section 1717, the statutory basis for fees in this action, provides for ‘reasonable attorney’s fees in addition to other costs.’ (Civ. Code, § 1717, subd. (a).) Nothing in that section precludes compensation for fees incurred prior to filing the complaint, where fees were reasonably and necessarily incurred at that time by the prevailing party. Indeed, by requiring only that the fee award be ‘reasonable’ the statute supports the opposite conclusion.”

(Id.) (Emphasis added.)

Fifth, Defendants argue Plaintiff did not make a reasonable effort to meet and confer before filing this action and seeking injunctive relief. (Oppo., pp. 15:12-16:7.) However, Plaintiff’s evidence demonstrates that Defendants were served with a letter demanding they cease and desist from any further construction work via regular mail and email on June 19, 2020. (Mot., Samofalova Decl., ¶¶ 4-5, Exhs. 1, 2.) Defendants dispute receiving any communication from Plaintiff prior to the action being commenced. (Oppo., pp. 3:26-4:12.) Even if no communication via mail was received, Plaintiff’s evidence demonstrates Defendants received notice via email. Specifically, Plaintiff’s counsel sent an email to kherad@hotmail.com and to hazalsaheli@yahoo.com on June 19, 2020. (Mot., Samofalova Decl., ¶¶ 4-5, Exhs. 1, 2.) Plaintiff concedes the hazalsaheli@yahoo.com email address was incorrect and that the email sent to that address on June 19, 2020 bounced back. (Id.) However, the email to kherad@hotmail.com did not bounce back. (Id.) Plaintiff’s counsel resent the email with the letter attachment on June 22, 2020 to the correct email address, ghazalsaheli@yahoo.com. (Id.) Defendants’ own evidence demonstrates they used the ghazalsaheli@yahoo.com email address to communicate with Plaintiff in July 2020. (Oppo., Saheli Decl., ¶¶ 6, 11, Exhs. A, B.) Thus, the Court is not persuaded Defendants did not receive any communication from Plaintiff before this action was filed.

D. Reasonableness of Attorney’s Fees and Costs Requested

Having reviewed the attached ledger, the Court finds some entries should be reduced or eliminated. First, Plaintiff seeks attorney’s fees of $6,227.50 for 17.1 hours spent in drafting, revising, and finalizing the instant Motion. (Reply, Swedelson Decl., ¶ 1, Exh. 1.) However, this amount is excessive. The Court finds 3 hours for attorney Samofalova billed at $355.00 per hour and two hours for attorney Swedelson billed at $400.00 to be reasonable. Plaintiff also attempts to collect fees of $1,838.50 for 4.9 hours spent related to a potential defamation lawsuit against Defendants. (Reply, Swedelson Decl., ¶ 1, Exh. 1.) However, this is a separate matter and should not be billed in this action for enforcement of the CC&Rs. The Court also declines to award fees of $103.50 for review of a potential violation by another homeowner on July 2, 2020. (Reply, Swedelson Decl., ¶ 1, Exh. 1.)

As for costs, the Court declines to award costs of $317.00 incurred for photocopies related to the defamation dispute. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks $105.00 in costs for the exhibits attached to the Complaint. (Id.) The ledger does not specify how many copies were made. (See id.) The Complaint contains 83 pages of exhibits. Thus, if one set of copies was made, each copy was billed at approximately $1.24, an unreasonable amount. Plaintiff also seeks $312.25 for exhibits attached to the ex parte application and an additional $40.00 for exhibits attached to the instant Motion. (Reply, Swedelson Decl., ¶ 1, Exh. 1.) Total photocopying costs are $457.25. (Id.) The amount sought appears excessive, and because Plaintiff has not specified exactly how many copies of each were made and the rate at which each copy was billed, the Court cannot find this amount reasonable. The Court finds 25% of this amount, $114.31, to be reasonable. Having reviewed the costs sought, the Court awards $743.54.

Thus, the Court finds attorney’s fees and costs of $17,226.54, based on fees of $16,483 (including 1.5 hours off attorney time billed at $400 per hour for drafting the reply brief and appearing at the hearing) plus costs of $743.54 to be reasonable.

  1. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff Palisades Seascapes I Association’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is GRANTED in the amount of $17,226.54 based on fees of $16,483.00 and costs of $743.54.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

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