On 04/01/2016 SECRET RECIPES, INC filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against FELIX LOPEZ, AN INDIVIDUAL. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Burbank Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Los Angeles, California
KOYGANI ANDREH H.
ROSIE BARMAKSZIAN ESQ. SBN 263177
SECRET RECIPTES INC.
LOPEZ FELIX AN INDIVIDUAL
RODRIGUEZ LUIS AN INDIVIDUAL
OAK ESCROW INC. A BUSINESS ORGANIZATION
NATIONWIDE LEGAL LLC
TEST PARTY FOR TRUST CONVERSION
ROSIE BARMAKSZIAN ESQ.
RICHARD D. MARKS ESQ.
11/14/2016: Case Management Statement
4/7/2017: Minute Order
4/27/2017: Notice of Ruling
12/20/2017: Request for Judicial Notice
1/23/2018: Request for Judicial Notice
5/17/2018: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)
9/17/2018: Request for Judicial Notice
Appeal Record Delivered; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Appeal - Original Clerk's Transcript 1 - 5 Volumes Certified; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
at 1:30 PM in Department B; Status Conference (of Defendant's Appeal on Court's Decision on Anti-Slapp Motion heard on 7/12/2018) - HeldRead MoreRead Less
at 1:30 PM in Department B; Voluntary Settlement Conference (r/w Case EC064549) - HeldRead MoreRead Less
Minute Order ( (Voluntary Settlement Conference r/w Case EC064549; Status Con...)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Appeal - Clerk's Transcript Fee Paid (RESPONDENT PAID $346.24)Read MoreRead Less
Appeal - Clerk's Transcript Fee Paid (Appellant)Read MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department B; Status Conference (of Defendant's Appeal on Court's Decision on Anti-Slapp Motion heard on 7/12/2018) - Held - ContinuedRead MoreRead Less
Minute Order ( (Status Conference of Defendant's Appeal on Court's Decision o...)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Appeal - Notice of Fees Due for Clerk's Transcript on Appeal; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Notice; Filed by Hovik Grigorian (Plaintiff); Andreh H. Koygani (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
First Amended Complaint; Filed by Hovik Grigorian (Plaintiff); Andreh H. Koygani (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Notice of Hearing on Demurrer; Filed by Oak Escrow, Inc., a business organization (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Declaration; Filed by Oak Escrow, Inc., a business organization (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Proof of Service of Summons and Complaint; Filed by Esq. Rosie Barmakszian (Attorney); Hovik Grigorian (Plaintiff); Andreh H. Koygani (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Civil Case Cover SheetRead MoreRead Less
Summons; Filed by nullRead MoreRead Less
OSC-Failure to File Proof of Serv; Filed by CourtRead MoreRead Less
Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by CourtRead MoreRead Less
Complaint filed-Summons Issued; Filed by nullRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: EC065007 Hearing Date: September 25, 2020 Dept: NCB
North Central District
Secret recipes, inc., et al.,
felix lopez, et al.,
Case No.: EC065007
Related to Case No.: EC064549
Hearing Date: September 25, 2020
[TENTATIVE] order RE:
motion for mandatory attorneys’ fees and costs
In this action, Plaintiffs Secret Recipes, Inc., Hovik Grigorian, and Andreh H. Koygani (“Plaintiffs”) allege that they entered into an agreement with Defendants Felix Lopez (“Lopez” and Luis Rodriguez (“Rodriguez”) in order to purchase a restaurant. However, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants did not own the property and were not authorized to sublease the premises. They also allege Defendants misrepresented that the sale would include a liquor license and the building would be proper and working condition. Plaintiffs allege Rodriguez then improperly filed an unlawful detainer against Secret Recipes, Inc. and served Plaintiffs with a Notice of Belief of Abandonment of the Property. The Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), alleges causes of action for: (1) specific performance; (2) breach of contract; (3) conversion; (4) constructive trust; (5) fraud; (6) breach of fiduciary duty; (7) negligence; (8) IIED; (9) money had and received; (10) rescission of contract; and (11) declaratory relief.
Cross-Complainants Felix Lopez and Luis Rodriguez (“Cross-Complainants”) allege that on November 18, 2015, the Court entered judgment in Rodriguez v. Secret Recipes in LASC Case No. EC064549, against Secret Recipes, Inc. based on Plaintiffs/Cross-Defendants Andreh Koygani, Hovik Grigorian, and Secret Recipes, Inc.’s (“Cross-Defendants”) default under a lease agreement for property located at 933 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91202. Cross-Complainants allege they are the owners of a long-term ground lease and building for the commercial property there. Cross-Complainants allege that Cross-Defendants failed to pay monthly rental payments due and were thus evicted by a judgment entered in EC064549, which also included an award of $99,000.00 in unpaid rent and damages and is accruing interest. After the eviction, Cross-Complainants located a credit-worthy tenant, Ahed Rabadi, but allege that Cross-Defendants engaged in an illegal scheme to prevent Cross-Complainants from subleasing the property. The First Amended Cross-Complaint (“FACC”), filed January 9, 2018, alleges causes of action for: (1) intentional interference with contractual relations; (2) intentional interference with prospective economic advantage; (3) negligent interference with prospective economic advantage; (4) defamation; (5) slander; (6) statutory unfair competition (Bus. & Profs. Code, §17200); (7) successor-in-interest liability; and (8) creditor’s suit.
B. Relevant Background
On July 12, 2018, the Court granted in part Cross-Defendants Andreh Koygani, Hovik Grigorian, and Secret Recipes, Inc.’s special motion to strike the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd causes of action, and denied the motion as to the 4th, 5th, and 6th causes of action from Cross-Complainants Felix Lopez and Luis Rodriguez’s first amended cross-complaint. The Court awarded Cross-Defendants attorney’s fees in the amount of $3,810.00.
Cross-Complainants appealed. On April 1, 2020, the Court of Appeal issued its order affirming this Court’s order partially granting Cross-Defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion. The Court of Appeal also stated that Cross-Defendants were entitled to costs and attorneys’ fees on appeal.
On August 17, 2020, the Court of Appeal issued its Remittitur, stating the April 1, 2020 order is now final.
C. Motion on Calendar
On April 27, 2020, Cross-Defendants Secret Recipes, Inc., Andreh Koygani, and Hovik Grigorian filed a motion for attorney’s fees against Defendants/Cross-Complainants Felix Lopez and Luis Rodriguez. Cross-Defendants seek $60,850 in attorney’s fees and $1,986.35 in costs.
On August 28, 2020, Lopez and Rodriguez filed an opposition brief.
On September 3, 2020, Cross-Defendants filed a reply brief. On September 4, 2020, Cross-Defendants filed the supplemental declaration of Hani Ganji.
REQUEST FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE
Secret Recipes, Koygani, and Grigorian request judicial notice of Exhibits A-C regarding their anti-SLAPP motion, opposition, and the Court’s July 12, 2018 order granting the motion in part and awarding $60 in costs and $3,750 in attorney’s fees; Exhibits D-F regarding the parties’ briefs filed on appeal; and Exhibit G regarding the Court of Appeal’s April 1, 2020 decision affirming the Court’s July 12, 2018 order and awarding their fees and costs on appeal.
Lopez and Rodriguez request judicial notice of: (1) the attorney profile of Hani Ganji (counsel for Secret Recipes) on the Kermani LLP website and (2) the Supplemental Declaration of Michael A. Abramson in support of Lopez and Rodriguez’s motion for attorney’s fees on appeal in EC064549. The request is denied as to Exhibit 1 and granted as to Exhibit 2.
A. Merits of Motion: Entitlement to Attorney’s Fees
Cross-Defendants move for attorney’s fees pursuant to CCP §425.16(c) for succeeding on their special motion to strike Cross-Complainants’ FACC, for their successful defense of Cross-Complainants’ appeal on the anti-SLAPP motion, and the time to prepare this motion.
CCP §1033.5(a)(10) states that an allowable cost includes attorney’s fees, which are authorized by: (A) contract; (B) statute; or (C) the law. CCP §425.16(c)(1) states that a prevailing defendant on a special motion to strike shall be entitled to recover his or her attorney’s fees and costs. Any SLAPP defendant who brings a successful motion to strike is entitled to mandatory attorney fees. (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1131.) CRC Rule 8.278(a)(2) states that the prevailing party is the respondent if the Court of Appeal affirms the judgment without modification or dismisses the appeal.
Cross-Defendants acknowledge that the Court already awarded them $3,810 in attorney’s fees and costs in connection with the anti-SLAPP motion, but they seek additional fees and costs for the appeal and for bringing this motion. In its order, the Court of Appeal stated that Cross-Defendants were entitled to costs and fees on appeal. As such, Cross-Defendants have shown their entitlement to attorney’s fees and costs.
B. Amount of Attorney’s Fees Awarded
The trial court has broad authority to determine the amount of a reasonable fee. (PLCM Group, Inc. v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal. 4th 1084, 1095.) The award of attorney fees under section 1717 is governed by equitable principles. (Id.) The experienced trial judge is the best judge of the value of professional services rendered and the trial judge’s decision will not be disturbed unless the appellate court is convinced that it is clearly wrong, i.e., that it abused its discretion. (Id.) The fee setting inquiry in California ordinarily begins with the "lodestar," i.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate. (Id.) California courts have consistently held that 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. (Id.) The lodestar figure may then be adjusted, based on consideration of factors specific to the case, in order to fix the fee at the fair market value for the legal services provided. (Id.) 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.) No specific findings reflecting the Court’s calculations are required. (Wershba v. Apple Computer, Inc. (2001) 91 Cal. App. 4th 224, 254-255.) The record need only show that the attorney fees were awarded according to the ‘lodestar' approach. (Id.)
Total, Cross-Defendants seek $60,850 in attorney’s fees and $1,986.35 in costs. They acknowledge that they were already awarded $3,810 on July 12, 2018 for attorney’s fees and costs in connection with the anti-SLAPP motion. They now seek $50,600 in attorney’s fees ($550/hour x 92 hours) and $1,816.35 in costs on appeal, and $6,500 in attorney’s fees ($500/hour x 11 hours) and $110 in costs ($60 filing fee and $50 CourtCall fees) for this motion for attorney’s fees.
Cross-Defendants provide the declaration of their counsel, Hani Ganji, in support of the motion. Mr. Ganji makes the following statements in his declaration:
· In connection with the anti-SLAPP motion, Cross-Defendants sought $7,500 in attorney’s fees at a rate of $500/hour for 15 hours. (Ganji Decl., ¶4; RJN, Ex. 4.) As Cross-Defendants were partially meritorious in bringing the motion, the Court awarded attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $3,810 to Cross-Defendants.
· His hourly rate on appeal was higher at $550/hour. (Ganji Decl., ¶5.) He states the hourly rate is reasonable considering his education and experience. (Id.) As a matter of practice, Mr. Ganji block-bills his clients. (Id., ¶6.) He states that he spent 92 hours on the appeal and details the tasks he performed during the appeal. (Id.)
o Mr. Ganji spent: (a) 3 hours reviewing, highlighting, and notating the clerk’s transcript consisting of 5 volumes; (b) 3 hours reviewing and organizing the procedural posture of the case; (c) 5 hours analyzing and developing case facts by reviewing the pleadings and discovery; (d) 10 hours reviewing Cross-Complainants’ opening appellate brief; (e) 30 hours preparing the opposition appellate brief; (f) 9 hours reviewing the reply brief; (g) 17 hours preparing an opposition outline to the reply brief; (h) 2 hours preparing a motion to strike new arguments and authorities; (i) 12 hours preparing for oral argument; and (j) 1 hour attending oral argument.
· Mr. Ganji spent 7 hours on this motion for attorney’s fees, and expects to spend 4 hours to review the opposition and draft a reply and 2 hours to prepare for and attend the hearing, at the hourly rate of $500/hour. (Id., ¶8.) He also seeks $60 in filing fees and $50 for CourtCall fees. (Id.)
· In his supplemental reply brief, Mr. Ganji states that he can provide a further breakdown of his hours.
The Court finds that the billing rate of $550/per hour for the work done on appeal to be high. Though Mr. Ganji states that his experience and education warrant this steep rate, he has not provided the Court with facts regarding how long he has practiced law or his experience with appellate work. Thus, the Court will reduce the fees to $300/hour for the work done on appeal and for preparing this motion for attorney’s fees and costs based on the Court’s familiarity with the work provided.
Next, the Court notes that while Mr. Ganji has provided a list of block-billing for tasks he performed when defending against the appeal, the list fails to provide any further detail, such as dates that he performed the tasks, how long he spent on the tasks on certain days, etc. Blockbilling, while not objectionable per se exacerbates the vagueness of counsel's fee request, which is a “a risky choice since the burden of proving entitlement to fees rests on the moving party.” (Christian Research Institute v. Alnor “An attorney's chief asset in submitting a fee request is his or her credibility, and where vague, blockbilled time entries inflated with noncompensable hours destroy an attorney's credibility with the trial court, [the appellate court has] no power on appeal to restore it.” (Id. at 1325-26.) “Trial courts retain discretion to penalize block billing when the practice prevents them from discerning which tasks are compensable and which are not.” (Heritage Pacific Financial, LLC v. Monroy (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 972, 1010.)
The Court finds that the hours billed to be somewhat excessive, particularly without informing the Court or Cross-Complainants how the time was spent on each of the broadly named tasks. For example, Mr. Ganji states that he spent 10 hours reviewing Cross-Complainants’ opening brief, 30 hours researching/outlining/preparing the opposition, 9 hours reviewing and analyzing the reply brief, 17 hours preparing an opposition outline to the reply brief, 2 hours to prepare a motion to strike the new arguments in the reply brief, and 12 hours to prepare for oral arguments. (Ganji Decl., ¶6.) While Mr. Ganji explains in part the great number of hours was due to the length of the opening and reply briefs, and Cross-Complainants’ addition of 33 new authorities in the reply brief, the Court still finds that the time spent on the appeal to be excessive. It is Cross-Defendants and Mr. Ganji’s burden as the moving party to substantiate the fees requested and their reasonableness, which they have not fully done.
Thus, the total amount hours that the Court will allow Mr. Ganji to recover in attorney’s fees shall be 80 hours total. This represents two full weeks of Mr. Ganji’s time, plenty to accomplish the goals set out here. Thus, the attorney’s fees awarded on appeal shall be $24,000 (80 hours x $300/hour).
With regard to the motion for attorney’s fees, the Court will award attorney’s fees in the reasonable amount of $1,910 (6 hours x $300/hour; plus $110 in costs).
Thus, the motion for attorney’s fees is granted in the amount of $25,910 ($24,000 for attorney’s fees on appeal + $1,910 for attorney’s fees and costs to bring this motion).
C. Costs on Appeal
Cross-Defendants seek $1,816.35 for costs on appeal consisting of: $346.24 for the Clerk’s Transcript fee; $1,005.41 in photocopying fees for the transcript; and $464.70 in filing fees ($412.20 for the opposition fee plus 5 electronic filing fees at $10.50 each). (Id., ¶7.)
At this time, the Court declines to award costs on appeal. Pursuant to CRC Rule 8.278(c)(1), in order to recover costs on appeal, the party claiming costs must serve and file with the Court a verified memorandum of costs within 40 days after issuance of the remittitur. The remittitur was filed on August 17, 2020, such that Cross-Defendants have 40 days to file a memorandum of costs. Thereafter, pursuant to Rule 8.278(c)(2), Cross-Complainants may move to strike or tax the costs.
Thus, the request for costs on appeal is premature at this time as Lopez and Rodriguez should be afforded the opportunity to file a motion to strike/tax costs.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Cross-Defendants’ motion for attorney’s fees is granted in the total amount of $25,910 for attorney’s fees incurred during the appeal and the fees and costs to bring this motion.
The request for costs on appeal is denied, as the request is premature.
Cross-Defendants shall provide notice of this order.