This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 06/02/2019 at 00:12:55 (UTC).

SECRET RECIPES, INC. VS FELIX LOPEZ, AN INDIVIDUAL

Case Summary

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.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****5007

  • Filing Date:

    04/01/2016

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Other Contract

  • Courthouse:

    Burbank Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs

KOYGANI ANDREH H.

GRIGORIAN HOVIK

ROSIE BARMAKSZIAN ESQ. SBN 263177

SECRET RECIPTES INC.

Defendants

LOPEZ FELIX AN INDIVIDUAL

RODRIGUEZ LUIS AN INDIVIDUAL

OAK ESCROW INC. A BUSINESS ORGANIZATION

LOPEZ FELIX

RODRIGUEZ LUIS

LORACAST INC.

Not Classified By Court

GORDON JOSSLYN

NATIONWIDE LEGAL LLC

TEST PARTY FOR TRUST CONVERSION

CURRADO DINA

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorneys

ROSIE BARMAKSZIAN ESQ.

GANJI HANI

Defendant Attorney

RICHARD D. MARKS ESQ.

 

Court Documents

Unknown

5/18/2016: Unknown

Unknown

8/22/2016: Unknown

Unknown

11/7/2016: Unknown

Case Management Statement

11/14/2016: Case Management Statement

Unknown

1/3/2017: Unknown

Minute Order

4/7/2017: Minute Order

Notice of Ruling

4/27/2017: Notice of Ruling

Unknown

7/10/2017: Unknown

Unknown

11/20/2017: Unknown

Unknown

12/20/2017: Unknown

Request for Judicial Notice

12/20/2017: Request for Judicial Notice

Request for Judicial Notice

1/23/2018: Request for Judicial Notice

Unknown

1/26/2018: Unknown

Unknown

2/22/2018: Unknown

Unknown

4/10/2018: Unknown

Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

5/17/2018: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

Request for Judicial Notice

9/17/2018: Request for Judicial Notice

Notice

9/21/2018: Notice

180 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 04/26/2019
  • Appeal Record Delivered; Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/25/2019
  • Appeal - Original Clerk's Transcript 1 - 5 Volumes Certified; Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/12/2019
  • 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) - Held

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  • 04/12/2019
  • at 1:30 PM in Department B; Voluntary Settlement Conference (r/w Case EC064549) - Held

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  • 04/12/2019
  • Minute Order ( (Voluntary Settlement Conference r/w Case EC064549; Status Con...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/02/2019
  • Appeal - Clerk's Transcript Fee Paid (RESPONDENT PAID $346.24)

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  • 04/02/2019
  • Appeal - Clerk's Transcript Fee Paid (Appellant)

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  • 03/26/2019
  • 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 - Continued

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  • 03/26/2019
  • Minute Order ( (Status Conference of Defendant's Appeal on Court's Decision o...)); Filed by Clerk

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 03/22/2019
  • Appeal - Notice of Fees Due for Clerk's Transcript on Appeal; Filed by Clerk

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261 More Docket Entries
  • 05/16/2016
  • Notice; Filed by Hovik Grigorian (Plaintiff); Andreh H. Koygani (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/16/2016
  • First Amended Complaint; Filed by Hovik Grigorian (Plaintiff); Andreh H. Koygani (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/12/2016
  • Notice of Hearing on Demurrer; Filed by Oak Escrow, Inc., a business organization (Defendant)

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  • 05/12/2016
  • Declaration; Filed by Oak Escrow, Inc., a business organization (Defendant)

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  • 04/14/2016
  • Proof of Service of Summons and Complaint; Filed by Esq. Rosie Barmakszian (Attorney); Hovik Grigorian (Plaintiff); Andreh H. Koygani (Plaintiff)

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  • 04/01/2016
  • Civil Case Cover Sheet

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  • 04/01/2016
  • Summons; Filed by null

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  • 04/01/2016
  • OSC-Failure to File Proof of Serv; Filed by Court

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  • 04/01/2016
  • Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Court

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  • 04/01/2016
  • Complaint filed-Summons Issued; Filed by null

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Tentative Rulings

b'

Case Number: EC065007 Hearing Date: August 6, 2021 Dept: NCB

\r\n\r\n

Superior Court of California

\r\n\r\n

County of Los Angeles

\r\n\r\n

North\r\nCentral District

\r\n\r\n

Department B

\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n

\r\n

secret recipes, et al.,\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

Plaintiffs,

\r\n

v.

\r\n

\r\n

felix lopez, et al.,\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

Defendants.

\r\n
\r\n

\r\n

Case\r\n No.: EC065007

\r\n

Related\r\n to: EC064549

\r\n

\r\n

Hearing Date: August 6, 2021

\r\n

\r\n

[TENTATIVE]\r\n order RE:

\r\n

Demurrers

\r\n
\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n

BACKGROUND

\r\n\r\n

A. Allegations\r\n

\r\n\r\n

Plaintiffs Secret Recipes, Inc., Hovik\r\nGrigorian, and Andreh H. Koygani filed the Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) on\r\nNovember 28, 2016, alleging causes of action for: (1) specific performance; (2)\r\nbreach of contract; (3) conversion; (4) constructive trust; (5) fraud; (6)\r\nbreach of fiduciary duty; (7) negligence; (8) IIED; (9) money had and received;\r\n(10) rescission of contract; and (11) declaratory relief.

\r\n\r\n

On February 23, 2021, Cross-Complainants\r\nFelix Lopez and Luis Rodriguez (“Cross-Complainants”) filed the Third Amended\r\nCross-Complaint (“TAXC”), alleging causes of action for: (1) defamation; (2)\r\nslander; (3) statutory unfair competition (Bus. & Profs. Code, §17200); (4)\r\nsuccessor-in-interest liability; (5) creditor’s suit; (6) preliminary and\r\npermanent injunctive relief; (7) action against guarantor on guaranty; and (8)\r\ndeclaratory relief.

\r\n\r\n

B. \r\nMotions on Calendar

\r\n\r\n

On\r\nMay 20, 2021, Cross-Complainants Lopez and Rodriguez filed 2 demurrers to\r\nCross-Defendants Grigorian and Koygani’s answers to the TAXC.

\r\n\r\n

DISCUSSION\r\n

\r\n\r\n

A\r\nparty may amend its pleading once without leave of the court at any time before\r\nthe answer, demurrer, or motion to strike is filed, or after a\r\ndemurrer or motion to strike is filed but before the demurrer or\r\nmotion to strike is heard if the amended pleading is filed and\r\nserved no later than the date for filing an opposition to the demurrer or\r\nmotion to strike. A party may amend the pleading after the date\r\nfor filing an opposition to the demurrer or motion to strike, upon\r\nstipulation by the parties. The time for responding to an amended pleading\r\nshall be computed from the date of service of the amended pleading.” (CCP § 472(a).)

\r\n\r\n

Here,\r\nCross-Defendants filed their respective amended answers on July 26, 2021. The date to oppose the demurrers was July 26,\r\n2021. Thus, Cross-Defendants timely\r\nfiled an amended pleading pursuant to CCP § 472(a).

\r\n\r\n

As such, Cross-Complainants’\r\ndemurrers to the answers to the TAXC are taken off-calendar in light of the\r\nfiling of the amended answers.

\r\n\r\n

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

\r\n\r\n

Defendants/Cross-Complainants Felix Lopez\r\nand Luis Rodriguez’s demurrers to the answers of Cross-Defendants Hovik\r\nGrigorian and Andreh H. Koygani are taken off-calendar as amended answers were\r\nfiled.

\r\n\r\n

Cross-Complainants\r\nshall provide notice of this order.

\r\n\r\n

'b"

Case Number: EC065007 Hearing Date: July 23, 2021 Dept: NCB

\r\n\r\n

Superior Court of California

\r\n\r\n

County of Los Angeles

\r\n\r\n

North\r\nCentral District

\r\n\r\n

Department B

\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n

\r\n

secret recipes, et al.,\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

Plaintiffs,

\r\n

v.

\r\n

\r\n

felix lopez, et al.,\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

Defendants.

\r\n
\r\n

\r\n

Case\r\n No.: EC065007

\r\n

Related\r\n to: EC064549

\r\n

\r\n

Hearing Date: July 23, 2021

\r\n

\r\n

[TENTATIVE]\r\n order RE:

\r\n

(1) motion for preliminary injunction

\r\n

(2) Motion to disqualify counsel

\r\n

\r\n
\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n

BACKGROUND

\r\n\r\n

A. Allegations\r\n

\r\n\r\n

Plaintiffs Secret Recipes, Inc., Hovik\r\nGrigorian, and Andreh H. Koygani filed the Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) on\r\nNovember 28, 2016, alleging causes of action for: (1) specific performance; (2)\r\nbreach of contract; (3) conversion; (4) constructive trust; (5) fraud; (6)\r\nbreach of fiduciary duty; (7) negligence; (8) IIED; (9) money had and received;\r\n(10) rescission of contract; and (11) declaratory relief.

\r\n\r\n

On February 23, 2021, Cross-Complainants\r\nFelix Lopez and Luis Rodriguez (“Cross-Complainants”) filed the Third Amended\r\nCross-Complaint (“TAXC”), alleging causes of action for: (1) defamation; (2)\r\nslander; (3) statutory unfair competition (Bus. & Profs. Code, §17200); (4)\r\nsuccessor-in-interest liability; (5) creditor’s suit; (6) preliminary and permanent\r\ninjunctive relief; (7) action against guarantor on guaranty; and (8)\r\ndeclaratory relief.

\r\n\r\n

B. \r\nMotions on Calendar

\r\n\r\n

On\r\nJune 11, 2021, Defendants Lopez and Rodriguez filed a motion to enforce the\r\npreliminary injunction order during pendency of appeal, or alternatively, for\r\nan order requiring and fixing amount of bond in lieu thereof. On June 25, 2021, Plaintiff Secret Recipes\r\nfiled an opposition brief. On June 28,\r\n2021, Defendants filed a reply brief. This matter initially came for hearing on July\r\n2, 2021, and was continued to July 23, 2021 in order to afford time for the\r\nparties to reach a possible stipulation. \r\nOn July 16, 2021, Defendants filed the declaration of Michael Abramson\r\nand Status Report re Proposed Stipulation to Deposit Oak Escrow Instructions\r\nwith Defendant’s Counsel.

\r\n\r\n

On\r\nJune 28, 2021, Defendants Lopez and Rodriguez filed a motion to disqualify Ben\r\nGharagozli (SBN 272302) as counsel for Hovik Grigorian and Andreh H. Koygani\r\nor, alternatively, to require disclosure of his representation of such\r\nparties. On July 12, 2021, Secret\r\nRecipes filed an opposition to the motion. \r\nOn July 16, 2021, Defendants filed a reply brief.

\r\n\r\n

DISCUSSION\r\nRE MOTION TO ENFORCE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

\r\n\r\n

Defendants Lopez\r\nand Rodriguez filed a motion to enforce the preliminary injunction against\r\nPlaintiffs Secret Recipes, Mr. Grigorian, and Mr. Koygani during pendency of\r\nappeal. They seek an order for\r\nPlaintiffs to send written instructions to Oak Escrow, Inc. to cancel the\r\nLiquor License Escrow (Oak Escrow No. 49063) based on the Court’s order entered\r\nApril 26, 2021 granting Defendants’ motion for preliminary injunction (hereinafter,\r\n“4/16/21 Injunction Order”).

\r\n\r\n

Defendants\r\nprovide a summary of Secret Recipes’ appeals and outstanding sanctions orders\r\nand fee awards. (Mot. at pp.2-7.) Defendants then argue that there is no reason\r\nwhy the injunction should not be enforced during the pendency of the appeal\r\nbecause a prohibitory injunction is “self-executing” and thus Plaintiffs must\r\ncomply with the 4/16/21 Injunction Order. \r\nHowever, in Defendants’ underlying motion for preliminary injunction (filed\r\nMarch 2, 2021), Defendants specifically argued that they were “mov[ing] for a mandatory\r\npreliminary injunction….” (3/2/21 Mot.\r\nat p.2 [emphasis added].) The\r\nCourt has already recognized that Defendants’ requested preliminary injunction\r\nin connection with the 4/16/21 Injunction Order was a mandatory\r\ninjunction. The Court also discussed the\r\nnature of the 4/16/21 Injunction in its written order on that motion and Secret\r\nRecipes’ motion to seal (heard on June 25, 2021). As stated in the Court’s June 25, 2021 order\r\non the motion to seal:

\r\n\r\n

It is well\r\nsettled that an injunction mandatory in character is automatically stayed on\r\nappeal and that a prohibitory injunction is not so stayed [citations], ‘the\r\nobject of the rule in both cases being to preserve the status quo. Otherwise\r\nthe result of the final adjudication might often be a barren victory.’” (Paramount\r\nPictures Corp. v. Davis (1964) 228\r\nCal.App.2d 827, 835.) Although\r\nCross-Complainants argue in their opposition that the injunction is a\r\nprohibitory injunction, this is contrary to their motion for preliminary\r\ninjunction papers where they expressly acknowledged that the injunction they\r\nsought was mandatory in nature.

\r\n\r\n

(6/25/21 Order at p.5.)

\r\n\r\n

Thus, the Court will not\r\nreconsider the nature of the injunction again. \r\nThe Court has already determined the nature of the injunction was\r\nmandatory, which Defendants recognized in their own papers when moving for such\r\nrelief. As such, Defendants’\r\narguments based on the 4/16/21 Injunction being a prohibitory injunction lacks\r\nmerit. Accordingly, the Court denies Defendants’\r\nmotion to enforce the preliminary injunction order.

\r\n\r\n

Alternatively,\r\nDefendants seek an order requiring and fixing amount of bond in the amount of\r\nat least $250,000 pursuant to CCP § 917.9 in the event of a stay due to the\r\nappeal.

\r\n\r\n

CCP\r\n§ 917.9 states in relevant part:

\r\n\r\n

(a) The perfecting of an appeal shall not stay enforcement of the\r\njudgment or order in cases not provided for in Sections 917.1 to 917.8,\r\ninclusive, if the trial court, in its discretion, requires an undertaking and\r\nthe undertaking is not given, in any of the following cases:

\r\n\r\n

(1) Appellant was found to possess money or other property\r\nbelonging to respondent.

\r\n\r\n

(2) Appellant is required to perform an act for respondent's\r\nbenefit pursuant to judgment or order under appeal.

\r\n\r\n

(3) The judgment against appellant is solely for costs awarded to\r\nthe respondent by the trial court pursuant to Chapter 6 (commencing with Section\r\n1021) of Title 14.

\r\n\r\n

(b) The undertaking shall be in a sum fixed by the court and shall be in an amount sufficient to\r\ncover all damages which the respondent may sustain by reason of the stay in the\r\nenforcement of the judgment or order.

\r\n\r\n

(c) The undertaking shall be in the sum fixed by the court. The undertaking shall be\r\nconditioned upon the performance of the judgment or order appealed from or\r\npayment of the sums required by the judgment or order appealed from, if the\r\njudgment or order is affirmed or the appeal is withdrawn or dismissed, and it\r\nshall provide that if the judgment or order appealed from or any part of it is\r\naffirmed, or the appeal is withdrawn or dismissed, the appellant will pay all\r\ndamages which the respondent may sustain by reason of the stay in the\r\nenforcement of the judgment.

\r\n\r\n

(CCP § 917.9(a)-(c).)

\r\n\r\n

At this time,\r\nthe Court declines to order Plaintiffs to post a bond in the amount of $250,000\r\nfor the following reasons.

\r\n\r\n

First,\r\nDefendants argue that the $250,000 amount is a reasonable estimate of the\r\npotential losses they will likely sustain as a result of the appeal. However, the proposed amount of the bond is\r\nunreasonable. While some of the $250,000\r\namount has been explained as loss of income, loss of revenue, etc., these\r\narguments are not fully substantiated and are speculative at this time. (Lopez Decl., ¶12.)

\r\n\r\n

Second, Defendants\r\nargue that the Court’s failure to order an undertaking would condone abuse of\r\nthe appellate system. The Court\r\ndisagrees. The California Code of Civil\r\nProcedure specifically sets out a mechanism under sections 916 and 917.3 for\r\nautomatic stays to appeal, and case law supports the automatic stay on appeal\r\nregarding orders on mandatory injunctions. \r\n(Paramount\r\nPictures Corp. v. Davis (1964) 228 Cal.App.2d 827, 835.)

\r\n\r\n

Third, section\r\n917.9 applies to orders in cases “not provided for” in Sections 917.1 to\r\n917.8. However, the 4/16/21 Injunction\r\nOrder is “provided for” in these sections. \r\nThus, section 917.9’s language regarding an undertaking is not\r\napplicable here.

\r\n\r\n

For these\r\nreasons, the Court denies the motion in its entirety.

\r\n\r\n

This matter\r\ninitially came for hearing on July 2, 2021, but was continued so that the\r\nparties would have sufficient time to meet and confer and present a stipulation\r\nto the Court regarding the depositing of the escrow instructions. The Court had previously suggested that the\r\nparties discuss whether the escrow instructions signed by Secret Recipes could\r\nbe deposited with Defendants’ counsel, Mr. Abramson, subject to a Court order. However, at the hearing, the parties’ counsel\r\nrepresented that they were unable reach a resolution on the issue.

\r\n\r\n

Following the\r\nJuly 2, 2021 hearing, Mr. Abramson filed a declaration on July 16, 2021,\r\nstating that he sent a proposed stipulation to deposit the escrow instructions\r\non July 2, 2021, but the parties were not able to come to an agreement. (7/16/21 Abramson Decl., ¶¶4-7, Ex. A\r\n[Proposed Stipulation].) Thus, there\r\nappears to be no alternative to depositing the escrow instructions in Court.

\r\n\r\n

DISCUSSION RE MOTION TO DISQUALIFY COUNSEL

\r\n\r\n

A. \r\nRequest for Judicial Notice

\r\n\r\n

Defendants Lopez\r\nand Rodriguez request judicial notice of Exhibits: (C) Secret Recipes’ amended\r\nanswer to the TAXC; (D)-(E) Grigorian and Koygani’s answers to the TAXC; (F) a\r\nsubstitution of attorney form of Grigorian filed April 16, 2021; (G) a June 18,\r\n2021 email transmission of Grigorian and Koygani’s notices of joinder; (H)-(I)\r\nGrigorian and Koygani’s notices of joinder; (J) proof of service with respect\r\nto Grigorian and Koygani’s answers to the TAXC; and (K) motion to be relieved as\r\ncounsel for Attorne Ramin Montakub. The\r\nrequest is granted. (Evid. Code, §\r\n452(d).)

\r\n\r\n

B. Legal\r\nStandard

\r\n\r\n

Under CCP §\r\n128(5), the Court has the power to control, in furtherance of justice, the\r\nconduct of its ministerial officers. \r\nThis permits the Court to issue an order that disqualifies an attorney\r\nfrom representing a party. (Henriksen v. Great Am. Sav. & Loan\r\n(1992) 11 Cal.App.4th 109, 113.) In\r\nexercising its discretion to disqualify an attorney, the Court is required to\r\nmake a reasoned judgment which complies with the legal principles and policies applicable\r\nto the issue at hand. (Id.)

\r\n\r\n

Motions to disqualify counsel present\r\ncompeting policy considerations. (Zador Corp. v. Kwan (1995) 31\r\nCal.App.4th 1285, 1302.) On the one\r\nhand, a Court must not hesitate to disqualify an attorney when it is\r\nsatisfactorily established that the attorney wrongfully acquired an unfair\r\nadvantage that undermines the integrity of the judicial process and will have a\r\ncontinuing effect on the proceedings before the Court. (Id.) On the other hand, it must be kept in mind\r\nthat disqualification usually imposes a substantial hardship on the\r\ndisqualified attorney's innocent client, who must bear the monetary and other\r\ncosts of finding a replacement. (Id.) \r\nThis policy consideration is particularly important because it is widely\r\nunderstood that attorneys now commonly use disqualification motions for purely\r\nstrategic purposes, e.g., to delay the litigation or to intimidate an adversary\r\ninto accepting settlement on terms that would not otherwise be acceptable. (Id.)

\r\n\r\n

C. \r\nMerits of Motion

\r\n\r\n

Defendants move\r\nto disqualify Ben Gharagozli as counsel for Hovik Grigorian and Andreh H.\r\nKoygani or, alternatively requiring disclosure of his representation and\r\ngeneral appearance on behalf of them. Defendants\r\nargue that Mr. Gharagozli has made a general appearance on this case as counsel\r\nfor Secret Recipes, he has failed to disclose his representation of Grigorian\r\nand Koygani, and he has drafted/assisted in drafting legal pleadings and documents\r\non their behalf, and dual representation of Secret Recipes and\r\nGrigorian/Koygani is a direct conflict of interest.

\r\n\r\n

Based on the\r\nCourt’s records, Grigorian and Koygani are currently self-represented\r\nlitigants. According to the Substitution\r\nof Attorney forms filed on April 16, 2021, these individuals are no longer\r\nrepresented by RTM Law APC (Ramin Montakub) and are now representing\r\nthemselves. Since then, no substitutions\r\nof attorney forms have been filed to indicate that Grigorian and Koygani are\r\nrepresented by counsel.

\r\n\r\n

Defendants argue\r\nthat Mr. Gharagozli has served answers on behalf of Secret Recipes, Grigorian,\r\nand Koygani from his own email address (lobgattorney@gmail.com), as well as\r\nGrigorian and Koygani’s notices of joinder to various law and motion papers. (Abramson Decl., Exs. A-B; Def.’s RJN, Exs. G,\r\nJ.) They also argue that the three\r\nanswers filed by Secret Recipes, Grigorian, and Koygani are identical and each\r\ninclude 89 affirmative defenses. (Def.\r\nRJN, Exs. C-E.)

\r\n\r\n

While there may\r\nbe evidence that Mr. Gharagozli has acted as counsel for Grigorian and Koygani,\r\nthe Court does not find that a motion to disqualify is the proper motion as\r\nGrigorian and Koygani are still considered self-represented litigants according\r\nto the Court’s records. While\r\ndisqualification may not be proper at this time, Mr. Gharagozli’s role and/or\r\nrelationship with regard to Grigorian and Koygani should be clarified.

\r\n\r\n

Next, Defendants\r\nargue that CRC Rule 3.37(c) provide a basis to disqualify Mr. Gharagozli as\r\ncounsel for Grigorian and Koygani. Rule\r\n3.37(a) states that: “In a civil proceeding, an attorney who contracts\r\nwith a client to draft or assist in drafting legal documents, but not to make\r\nan appearance in the case, is not required to disclose within the text of the\r\ndocuments that he or she was involved in preparing the documents.” Subsection (c) states: “This rule does not\r\napply to an attorney who has made a general appearance in a case.” Defendants argue that because Mr. Gharagozli\r\nhas made general appearances on behalf of Grigorian and\r\nKoygani in violation of Rule 3.7, disqualification is proper on grounds\r\nrecognized by law. Alternatively,\r\nDefendants argue that if Mr. Gharagozli is not disqualified, then he should at\r\nleast be required to formally disclose his representation and appear on behalf\r\nof Grigorian and Koygani.

\r\n\r\n

The\r\nCourt declines to disqualify Mr. Gharagozli on the basis that he is in\r\nviolation of Rule 3.7. Such a request\r\nappears to be premature as Grigorian and Koygani are self-represented litigants\r\naccording to the Court’s records in this action and the Court will not preemptively\r\ndisqualify Mr. Gharagozli.

\r\n\r\n

However,\r\nas discussed above, there appears to be some confusion between the parties\r\nregarding whether Mr. Gharagozli is or is not representing Grigorian and\r\nKoygani based on the various examples provided by Defendants. While it is understandable that Mr. Gharagozli\r\nhas made appearances to the Court, this could also be because he is counsel for\r\nSecret Recipes. At the hearing, the\r\nCourt will make inquiries on this matter at the hearing. Moreover, if Mr.\r\nGharagozli does prepare pleadings for these parties, that fact should be\r\ndisclosed.

\r\n\r\n

The\r\nmotion to disqualify counsel is denied. \r\nHowever, the Court will order the parties to attend the hearing so that\r\nthe Court may make inquiries regarding the status of representation of Hovik\r\nGrigorian and Andreh H. Koygani.

\r\n\r\n

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

\r\n\r\n

Defendants/Cross-Complainants Felix Lopez\r\nand Luis Rodriguez’s motion to enforce the preliminary injunction order is\r\ndenied. The parties are ordered to\r\nattend the hearing and be prepared to discuss the status of the escrow\r\ninstructions.

\r\n\r\n

Defendants/Cross-Complainants Felix Lopez\r\nand Luis Rodriguez’s motion to disqualify Ben Gharagozli as counsel for Plaintiffs\r\nHovik Grigorian and Andreh H. Koygani is denied. However, the parties are ordered to attend\r\nthe hearing. The Court will inquire of\r\nMr. Gharagozli, Hovik Grigorian, and Andreh H. Koygani regarding the status of the\r\nrepresentation of the individual Plaintiffs. \r\n

\r\n\r\n

Defendants\r\nshall\r\nprovide notice of this order.

\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n

"

Case Number: EC065007    Hearing Date: September 25, 2020    Dept: NCB

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

North Central District

Department B

Secret recipes, inc., et al.,

Plaintiffs,

v.

felix lopez, et al.,

Defendants.

Case No.: EC065007

Related to Case No.: EC064549

Hearing Date: September 25, 2020

[TENTATIVE] order RE:

motion for mandatory attorneys’ fees and costs

BACKGROUND

A. Allegations

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.

DISCUSSION

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. AlnorAn 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.

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