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This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 03/14/2016 at 16:33:07 (UTC).

RANCH AT THE FALLS LLC VS KEITH O'NEAL ET AL

Case Summary

On 06/30/2014 RANCH AT THE FALLS LLC filed a Property - Other Real Property lawsuit against KEITH O'NEAL. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Chatsworth Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is MELVIN D. SANDVIG. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****5790

  • Filing Date:

    06/30/2014

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Property - Other Real Property

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Chatsworth Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

MELVIN D. SANDVIG

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs

HART APRIL

RANCH AT THE FALLS LLC A CALIFORNIA

Defendants

MANIAGO GLADYS

O'NEAL KEITH

INDIAN OAKS HOMEOWNERS

INDIAN SPRINGS HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION IN

LANTZ SECURITY SYSTEMS INC.

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorney

LIEBER JEFFREY E.

Defendant Attorneys

BEAUMONT GITLIN & TASHJIAN

FREEMAN MATHIS & GRAY LLP

MURPHY PEARSON BRADLEY & FEENEY

Court Documents

Court documents are not available for this case.

 

Docket Entries

  • 02/25/2016
  • Stipulation and Order (REGARDING CONTINUING THE MANDATORY SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE, FINAL STATUS CONFERENCE, TRIAL DATE AND ALL RELATED CUTOFF DATES FOR DISCOVERY AND MOTIONS (SANDVIG) ) Filed by Attorney for Defendant

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  • 12/02/2015
  • Stipulation and Order (PROTECTIVE ORDER (SANDVIG) ) Filed by Attorney for Defendant

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  • 09/08/2015
  • Answer to Second Amended Complaint (ANSWER OF INDIAN SPRINGS HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION AS TO SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT ) Filed by Attorney for Defendant

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  • 08/27/2015
  • Answer to Second Amended Complaint (ANSWER OF OF DEFENDANTS KEITH O'NEAL, GLADYS MANIAGO AND LANTZ SECURITY SYSTEMS, INC'S TO PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT ) Filed by Attorney for Defendant

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  • 08/27/2015
  • Answer to Second Amended Complaint (ANSWER OF DEFENDANT INDIAN SPRINGS HOMEOWNERS ASSOICATION AS TO PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT ) Filed by Attorney for Defendant

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  • 08/17/2015
  • Notice of Change of Address Filed by Attorney for Defendant

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  • 07/27/2015
  • Notice of Change of Address Filed by Attorney for Defendant

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  • 07/22/2015
  • Miscellaneous-Other (VERIFICATION OF DEFENDANT INDIAN OAKS HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION'S ANSWER TO SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT ) Filed by Attorney for Defendant

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  • 07/22/2015
  • Answer to Second Amended Complaint (ANSWER OF INDIAN OAKS HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION AS TO SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT ) Filed by Attorney for Defendant

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  • 05/13/2015
  • Stipulation and Order (REGARDING CONTINUING THE MANDATORY SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE, FINAL STATUS CONFERENCE, TRIAL DATE AND ALL RELATED CUTOFF DATES FOR DISCOVERY AND MOTIONS (SANDVIG)) Filed by Attorney for Defendant

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79 More Docket Entries
  • 06/30/2014
  • Declaration (OF STEPHEN H. BEECHER IN SUPPORT OF APPLICATION FOR A RESTRAINING ORDER AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION ) Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 06/30/2014
  • Declaration (OF RANDY CANO IN SUPPORT OF APPLICATION FOR A RESTRAINING ORDER AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION ) Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 06/30/2014
  • Summons Filed

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  • 06/30/2014
  • Declaration (RE: NOTICE ) Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 06/30/2014
  • Order for TRO (AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION (SANDVIG) ) Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 06/30/2014
  • Ex-Parte Application (FOR A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND ORDER AND ORDER TO SHOW RE: PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION ) Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 06/30/2014
  • Declaration (OF ANDRE ZIMBECK IN SUPPORT OF APPLICATION FOR A RESTRAINING ORDER AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION ) Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 06/30/2014
  • Declaration (OF APRIL HART ) Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 06/30/2014
  • Complaint filed-Summons Issued

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  • 06/30/2014
  • Miscellaneous-Other (MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT OF EX PARTE APPLICATION FOR A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION) Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: PC055790    Hearing Date: October 26, 2020    Dept: F47

Dept. F-47

Date: 10/26/20

Case #PC055790

MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND COSTS

Motion filed on 2/14/20.

MOVING PARTY: Defendant Indian Springs Homeowners Association, Inc.

RESPONDING PARTY: Plaintiffs/Cross-Defendants Ranch at the Falls LLC and April Hart

NOTICE: ok

RELIEF REQUESTED: An order awarding Defendant Indian Springs Homeowners Association, Inc. attorneys’ fees in the amount of $917,280.60 jointly and severally against Plaintiffs Ranch at the Falls LLC and April Hart. The total fee sum reflects $658,322.00 in attorneys’ fees incurred in the defense of Indian Springs in this action and $258,958.60 in attorneys’ fees incurred in prosecuting Indian Springs’ affirmative claims in this action. The reply indicates that Indian Springs has incurred an additional $24,994.00 in fees since the filing of the motion.

The supplemental declaration of attorney Nicholas R. Rogers indicates since the filing of the reply, his office has billed an additional $14,424.50 for work performed from May 2020 through August 2020 and September billings total an additional $2,632.00. Attorney Rogers also estimates an additional $1,410.00 in fees related to this motion.

The supplemental declaration of attorney Tara Radley indicates that since the filing of the motion, Cross-Complainant Indian Springs has incurred additional fees through 9/30/20 which total $14,835.00.

RULING: The motion is granted as set forth below.

This quiet title action arose out of the historical use by Plaintiffs/Cross-Defendants Ranch at the Falls LLC and April Hart (hereafter referred to as Plaintiffs) and their future need of access, ingress and egress to their property and the use of streets over and through the Indian Springs and Indian Oaks communities and the Lenope Property.

After a bench trial, on 5/10/17, the Court entered judgment against all defendants and cross-complainants, including Indian Springs. On 5/22/17, the Court awarded Plaintiffs attorney fees of $199,459.00.

On 7/31/19, the Court of Appeal reversed with directions to the Court to enter judgment in favor of Defendants. On 11/19/19, the Court of Appeal issued Remittitur confirming its 7/31/19 opinion. The Court of Appeal awarded Indian Springs costs on appeal and did not preclude Indian Springs from filing a motion to recover attorney fees pursuant to contract upon remand.

The doctrine of judicial estoppel applies when: (1) the same party has taken two positions; (2) the two positions were taken in judicial or quasi-judicial administrative proceedings; (3) the party was successful in asserting the first position (i.e., the tribunal adopted the position or accepted it as true); (4) the two positions are totally inconsistent; and (5) the first position was not taken as a result of ignorance, fraud, or mistake. M. Perez Co., Inc. v. Base Camp Condominiums Association No. One (Base Camp Condo Association) (2003) 111 CA4th 456, 468.

Plaintiffs’ conduct meets all five elements thereby precluding them from arguing that Indian Springs is not entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees in relation to the trial court proceedings and appeal of this action. In the trial court proceedings, Plaintiffs successfully amended their complaint to include a claim for attorneys’ fees. Thereafter, Plaintiffs prevailed at trial and successfully moved for an award of attorneys’ fees pursuant to Civil Code 1717. Now, Plaintiffs take a totally inconsistent position by arguing that Indian Springs, who is now the prevailing party based on the Court of Appeal’s 7/31/19 opinion and Judgment After Appeal entered on 2/13/20, is not entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees pursuant to Civil Code 1717. There is no evidence or argument that Plaintiffs, who were represented by qualified counsel in the trial court proceedings, took the first position as a result of ignorance, fraud or mistake.

The instant case is distinguishable from Base Camp Condo Association, where attorneys’ fees were not recoverable. There, the defendant did not prevail on a contract with an attorney fee provision and the plaintiff had merely asserted a claim for attorneys’ fees in the complaint. Here, Plaintiffs amended their complaint to assert a claim for attorneys’ fees and successfully obtained an award of attorneys’ fees in the trial court.

Civil Code 1717(a) provides, in relevant part:

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.

If a plaintiff relies on a contract to seek attorneys’ fees against a defendant that ultimately prevails, the defendant is reciprocally entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees, even if the defendant prevails by arguing the inapplicability, invalidity, unenforceability or non-existence of the contract. See California-American Water Co. (2017) 18 CA5th 571, 577; Base Camp Condo Association, supra at 468. Here, in the trial court proceedings, Plaintiffs invoked a contract to claim attorneys’ fees against Indian Springs, this Court adopted Plaintiffs’ position and awarded them attorneys’ fees after judgment was entered in their favor. The Court of Appeal reversed this Court’s judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, vacated its ruling awarding Plaintiffs attorneys’ fees and remanded the case to the trial court.

Plaintiffs have failed to adequately support their argument that the Court should exercise its discretion and deny the instant motion because granting same would cause Plaintiffs financial ruin. This case is distinguishable from Garcia (2009) 174 CA4th 464, relied on by Plaintiffs to support to this proposition. In Garcia, the plaintiff was indigent and self-represented. Here, Plaintiffs were represented by counsel and have not shown that granting the motion would cause their financial ruin. The only evidence offered by Plaintiffs is the declaration of April Hart without any documentation to support her claim that the Ranch is her only asset; she is on Medi-Cal; she accepts rent from her sons; and/or she owes $40,000 in taxes. Additionally, Hart provides no evidence regarding the value of the Ranch, her income, her monthly expenses, efforts to seek gainful employment, etc.

Similarly, Plaintiffs have failed to provide any authority to support the request made in the supplemental declaration of attorney Frank Gooch III that the motion be denied because Plaintiffs have made good faith efforts to carry out a Settlement Agreement with Indian Springs.

In the opposition to the instant motion, Plaintiffs’ also request that the Court not award costs to any defendant. (See Opp. p.4, fn.1). Such request is not supported by any authority and is improperly included in the opposition. If Plaintiffs wished to challenge costs claimed by any defendant, they were required to file a timely and properly noticed motion to tax or strike costs.

Based on the foregoing, as the now prevailing party in this action, Indian Springs is entitled to recover from Plaintiffs its reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred during the trial court proceedings and the appeal.

Based on the lodestar method of calculation (reasonable hourly rate multiplied by the reasonable number of hours expended) the fees requested of $975,576.10 are reduced to $731,682.08 for the trial court proceedings, appeal and time expended after the filing of this motion. See Serrano (1977) 20 C3d 25, 48; PLCM Group, Inc. (2000) 22 C4th 1084, 1097. The hourly rates claimed by Indian Springs counsel and the paralegals which assisted them are reasonable. (See Rogers Decl.; Radley Decl.; Tashjian Decl.) (Contrary to the assertion by Indian Springs, this Court did not approve a $500 hourly rate for Plaintiffs’ counsel when awarding fees on 5/22/17. (Rogers Decl. ¶36). Rather, the hourly rate this Court found to be reasonable was $350. (See 5/22/17 Minute Order, pp.2-3)).

However, the Court finds that the hours claimed (approximately 4782) are excessive and/or duplicative. For example, there is evidence of overbilling in that one of Indian Springs’ attorneys billed 25 hours in one day. (See Gooch Decl., Ex.1). Additionally, the Beaumont Tashjian firm also represented other parties in this action with no right to recover attorneys’ fees from Plaintiffs. Certain of the fees claimed for work on behalf of Indian Springs overlaps with work which would have otherwise been required for these other clients and/or was unnecessarily duplicative. Further, Indian Springs has failed to establish why it was necessary to have four attorneys represent it at the trial of this matter. As such, the hours claimed have been reduced by one-quarter resulting in a reduction of the fees requested by one-quarter.

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