On 07/26/2016 NIKKI GIAVASIS filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against STAR RETURNS LLC. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is RICHARD E. RICO. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
RICHARD E. RICO
STAR RETURNS LLC
DOES 1 TO 50
OHN GERALD S. ESQ.
HARTSUYKER STRATMAN & WILLIAMS-ABREGO
TICKNER KERE K. ESQ.
WILSON JASON S. ESQ.
SAFARIAN HARRY A. ESQ.
TRESTER FERDRIC W.
6/18/2018: Minute Order
10/17/2018: Minute Order
12/18/2018: Minute Order
7/27/2016: APPLICATION AND ORDER FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM
9/15/2016: NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
11/4/2016: ANSWER OF STAR RETURNS, LLC TO FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT
12/16/2016: Minute Order
1/20/2017: SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR: 1. BREACH OF IMPLIED WARRANTY OF HABITABILITY 2. BREACH OF WRITTEN CONTRACT; ETC.
2/24/2017: DEFENDANT DAN VO'S ANSWER TO SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT
5/4/2017: REQUEST FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS' OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT STAR RETURNS, LLC'S MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFFS' SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT
5/17/2017: Minute Order
5/17/2017: TENTATIVE RULING
5/19/2017: NOTICE OF RULING RE: (1) POST-MEDIATION STATUS CONFERENCE; AND (2) DEFENDANT STAR RETURNS, LLC.'S MOTION TO STRIKE
5/24/2017: DEFENDANT DAN VO'S REPLY IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF THE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT
7/13/2017: NOTICE OF CHANGE OF ADDRESS AND FIRM NAME
at 08:30 AM in Department 17, Richard E. Rico, Presiding; Status Conference (and Trial Setting Conference) - HeldRead MoreRead Less
Minute Order ( (Status Conference and Trial Setting Conference)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 17, Richard E. Rico, Presiding; Post-Mediation Status Conference - Held - ContinuedRead MoreRead Less
Minute Order ( (Post-Mediation Status Conference)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 17, Richard E. Rico, Presiding; Post-Mediation Status Conference - Held - ContinuedRead MoreRead Less
Minute Order ((Post-Mediation Status Conference)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 17, Richard E. Rico, Presiding; Status Conference - Held - ContinuedRead MoreRead Less
Minute order entered: 2018-10-17 00:00:00; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Minute Order ((Status Conference)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 17; Status Conference (Status Conference; Matter continued) -Read MoreRead Less
First Amended Complaint; Filed by Nikki Giavasis (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
FIRST AMENDED SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
Summons; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Summons Issued; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Ord Apptng Guardian Ad Litem; Filed by Plaintiff/PetitionerRead MoreRead Less
Application ; Filed by Plaintiff/PetitionerRead MoreRead Less
APPLICATION AND ORDER FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEMRead MoreRead Less
COMPLAINT FOR: I. BREACH OF IMPLIED WARRANTY OF HABITABILITY; ETCRead MoreRead Less
Complaint; Filed by Nikki Giavasis (Plaintiff); Taylor Giavasis (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Case Number: BC628277 Hearing Date: March 13, 2020 Dept: 17
Superior Court of California
County of Los Angeles
NIKKI GIAVASIS, JORDAN GIAVASIS, TAYLOR GIAVASIS, AND JOSEPHINE ROBERTSON
STAR RETURNS, LLC; DAN VO
Case No.: BC628277
Hearing Date: March 13, 2020
Plaintiff is awarded $483,850 in reasonable attorneys fees, and $5,219.53 in costs.
On July 26, 2016, Plaintiffs Nikki Giavasis, Jordan Giavasis, Taylor Gaivasis, and Josephine Robertson filed suit against Star Returns LLC and Dan Vo. On January 20, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint (SAC) alleging: (1) breach of implied warranty of habitability; (2) breach of written contract; (3) violations of Civil Code section 1950.5; (4) negligence; and (5) nuisance.
On December 24, 2019, Plaintiff Nikki Giavasis (Plaintiff) accepted an offer to compromise, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) section 998.
Plaintiff now moves for an award of attorneys fees and cost.
The party claiming attorneys’ fees must establish entitlement to such fees and the reasonableness of the fees claimed. (Civic Western Corporation v. Zila Industries, Inc. (1977) 66 Cal.App.3d 1, 16.) “Except as attorney’s fees are specifically provided for by statute, the measure and mode of compensation of attorneys and counselors at law is left to the agreement, express or implied, of the parties[.]” (CCP § 1021.)
“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.” (Melnyk v. Robledo (1976) 64 Cal.App.3d 618, 623.) In exercising its discretion, the court should consider a number of factors, including the nature of the litigation, its difficulty, the amount involved, the skill required in handling the matter, the attention given, the success or failure, and the resulting judgment. (Ibid.)
In determining what constitutes a reasonable compensation for an attorney who has rendered services in connection with a legal proceeding, the court may and should consider the nature of the litigation, its difficulty, the amount involved, the skill required and the skill employed in handling the litigation, the attention given, the success of the attorneys’ efforts, their learning, their age, and their experience in the particular type of work demanded the intricacies and importance of the litigation, the labor and necessity for skilled legal training and ability in trying the cause, and the time consumed. (Stokus v. Marsh (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 647, 657 (Stokus).)
In determining the proper amount of fees to award, courts use the lodestar method. The lodestar figure is calculated by multiplying the total number of reasonable hours expended by the reasonable hourly rate. “Fundamental to its determination … [is] a careful compilation of the time spent and reasonable hourly compensation of each attorney … in the presentation of the case.” (Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20 Cal.3d 25, 48 (Serrano III).) A reasonable hourly rate must reflect the skill and experience of the attorney. (Id. at 49.) “Prevailing parties are compensated for hours reasonably spent on fee-related issues. A fee request that appears unreasonably inflated is a special circumstance permitting the trial court to reduce the award or deny one altogether.” (Serrano v. Unruh (1982) 32 Cal.3d 621, 635 (Serrano IV); see also Weber v. Langholz (1995) 39 Cal.App.4th 1578, 1587 (“The trial court could make its own evaluation of the reasonable worth of the work done in light of the nature of the case, and of the credibility of counsel’s declaration unsubstantiated by time records and billing statements.”)
Reasonable attorney fees should be based on an objective standard of reasonableness, i.e., the market value of services rendered, not on some notion of cost incurred. (PLCM Group, Inc. v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1090.) The value of legal services performed in a case is a matter in which the trial court has its own expertise. (Id. at 1096.) The trial court may make its own determination of the value of the services contrary to, or without the necessity for, expert testimony. (Ibid.) 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. (Ibid.)
The parties do not dispute that Plaintiff is entitled to recover reasonable attorneys fees and costs as the prevailing party under the settlement agreement. However, Defendants argue that the requested $724,035 in fees are unreasonable and should be reduced.
Civil Code section 1717 provides:
(a) In 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.
Gerald S. Ohn claims $700 an hour. Mr. Ohn joined the State Bar in 2001, and specializes in complex litigation and class actions. In justification of this hourly rate, Mr. Ohn states that this figure is consistent with rates charged by attorneys with comparable experience, and is justified based on his own experience and the skill set he brought to the case. Mr. Ohn notes that this case was taken on a contingency basis, and a considerable amount of time was devoted to this case which precluded his firm from taking on additional work. However, Mr. Ohn has not convincingly shown that this case—a habitability/mold case—presented complex or novel issues, especially given that Mr. Ohn considers himself highly experienced in this litigation area. Plaintiffs’ motion makes the conclusory assertion that, “[T]his litigation was hotly contested as to the nature and extent of Plaintiff’s damages, including entertainment industry related damages. As such, it presented unique and novel issues for a mold/habitability case.” (Motion, 8:16-17.) This explanation does not identify a single novel legal issue presented by this case or identify why disputed “entertainment industry related damages” creates a particularly high degree of complexity. As such, it is insufficient to establish that this case presented complex or novel issues. After a consideration of the relevant factors, including the duration of the litigation, the difficulty of the litigation, the skill required, and the contingency nature of the case, the Court finds that a reasonable hourly rate for an attorney with similar skill and experience is $600.00 an hour. (Stokus v. Marsh (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 647, 657 (Stokus).)
Shayne Heller LaChapelle claims $400 an hour. Ms. LaChapelle joined the State Bar in 2001. While Ms. LaChapelle did not submit a declaration justifying this rate, Mr. Ohn stated this rate was justified based on the nature and scope of the litigation. However, as discussed above, Mr. Ohn has not adequately explained why this litigation was either complex or novel, such that it should justify a higher rate. Furthermore, the annotated billing records submitted with Plaintiffs’ motion show that Ms. LaChapelle only contributed 6.8 hours of work to this case. After a consideration of the relevant factors, including the duration of the litigation, the difficulty of the litigation, the skill required, and the contingency nature of the case, the Court finds that a reasonable hourly rate for an attorney with similar skill and experience is $350.00 an hour. (Stokus v. Marsh (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 647, 657 (Stokus).)
Tammy A. Prieto claims $350 an hour. Ms. Preito joined the State Bar in 2017. While Ms. Prieto did not submit a declaration justifying this rate, Mr. Ohn stated this rate was justified based on the nature and scope of the litigation. The annotated billing records show that Ms. Prieto only contributed 12.5 hours of work to this case. After a consideration of the relevant factors, including the duration of the litigation, the difficulty of the litigation, the skill required, and the contingency nature of the case, the Court finds that a reasonable hourly rate for an attorney with similar skill and experience is $300.00 an hour. (Stokus v. Marsh (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 647, 657 (Stokus).)
Mr. Ohn claims a total of 1,024.2 hours worked. A careful review of Mr. Ohn’s submitted hours shows that a significant portion of his billing was for case correspondence and review. With respect to these billing entries, the annotations are frequently vague, stating “correspondence with [Plaintiff],” “review documents” or “review and analyze documents” without providing any additional explanation. As a result, it is difficult for the Court to determine the reasonableness of these billed-for hours. Given the Court’s power to make “across-the-board percentage cuts either in the numbers of hours claimed or in the final lodestar figure,” the Court finds only 800 hours reasonably spent. (Gonzalez v. City of Maywood (9th Cir. 2013) 729 F.3d 1196, 1203 (Gonzalez). ($600 x 800 hrs = $480,000.)
Ms. LaChapelle claims a total of 6.8 hours worked. A review of Ms. LaChapelle’s submitted hours shows that 1.3 of those hours were spent on correspondence, and 3.5 of those hours were spent reviewing documents. Mr. Ohn has provided no additional support to explain why an additional set of hands was needed to provide these 4.5 hours correspondence and review, given that the billing records suggest Mr. Ohn was already extensively involved in these activities. As such, a portion of Mr. Ledbetter’s billed hours appear to be “excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.” (Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434.) The Courts finds only 2 hours to be reasonably spent. (Gonzalez, supra, 729 F.3d at p. 1203.) ($350 x 2= $700.)
Ms. Prieto claims a total of 12.5 hours worked. A review of Ms. Prieto’s hours show involvement with drafting and finalizing different documents. However, Ms. Prieto also billed 3.5 hours to review, research, and draft an opposition to an ex-parte application to continue trial. This appears to be “excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.” (Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434.) The Courts finds only 10.5 hours to be reasonably spent. (Gonzalez, supra, 729 F.3d at p. 1203.) ($300 x 10.5= $3,150.)
Based on the foregoing, the Court calculates the reasonable attorneys fees and costs to be awarded as follows:
- 800 hours x $600 = $480,000
- 2 hours x $350 = $700
- 10.5 hours x $300 = $3,150
Plaintiff does not request a lodestar enhancement. Accordingly, the Court declines to award one.
Plaintiff seeks $5,219.53 in costs.
Under Government Code section 12965, subdivision (b), the Court “…in its discretion, may award to the prevailing party, including the department, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, including expert witness fees, except that, notwithstanding Section 998 of the Code of Civil Procedure, a prevailing defendant shall not be awarded fees and costs unless the court finds the action was frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless when brought, or the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so.”
Verification of the memorandum of costs by the prevailing party’s attorney establishes a prima facie showing that the claimed costs are proper. (Jones v. Dumrichob (1998) 63 Cal.App.4th 1258, 1267.) To overcome this prima facie showing, the objecting party must introduce evidence to support its claim that the costs are not reasonably necessary. (Rappenecker v. Sea-Land Service, Inc. (1979) 93 Cal.App.3d 256, 266.)
“Allowable costs shall be reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation rather than merely convenient or beneficial to its preparation.” (CCP § 1033.5(c)(2).) “Allowable costs shall be reasonable in amount.” (CCP § 1033.5(c)(3).)
Defendants do not object to the costs requested by Plaintiff. Thus, Plaintiffs request for costs totaling $5,219.53 is granted. (Jones, supra, 63 Cal.App.4th at p. 1267.)
It is so ordered.
Dated: March , 2020
Hon. Jon R. Takasugi
Judge of the Superior Court
 In support of his rate, Plaintiff’s counsel cites the Laffey Matrix. However, counsel has submitted no authority which suggests this matrix is binding on California Courts. Indeed, in Syers Properties III, Inc. v. Rankin (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 691, 702 the Court of Appeal noted that, “the trial court was neither required to follow the Laffey Matrix nor to adopt the rate defense counsel opined was the “market rate” for services of this type.” The Court declines to utilize the Laffey Matrix.
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