This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 01/16/2019 at 13:36:18 (UTC).

SAMIR GHANNOUM VS JULIA K. SEVIER

Case Summary

On 05/07/2015 SAMIR GHANNOUM filed an Other lawsuit against JULIA K SEVIER. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Burbank Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is WILLIAM D. STEWART. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****4044

  • Filing Date:

    05/07/2015

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Other

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Burbank Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

WILLIAM D. STEWART

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs

GHANNOUM MOHAMMED

GHANNOUM SAMIR

Defendant

SEVIER JULIA

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorney

ZULU ALI LAW OFFICES OF

Defendant Attorney

ANTHONY A. SEARS ESQ.

 

Court Documents

Unknown

9/5/2018: Unknown

Unknown

9/5/2018: Unknown

Statement of the Case

9/5/2018: Statement of the Case

Unknown

9/5/2018: Unknown

Minute Order

10/29/2018: Minute Order

Minute Order

11/2/2018: Minute Order

Ex Parte Application

11/5/2018: Ex Parte Application

Notice of Ruling

11/8/2018: Notice of Ruling

Request for Judicial Notice

11/16/2018: Request for Judicial Notice

Motion to Dismiss

11/16/2018: Motion to Dismiss

Response

1/2/2019: Response

Witness List

1/3/2019: Witness List

Minute Order

1/4/2019: Minute Order

Notice of Ruling

1/7/2019: Notice of Ruling

Memorandum of Costs (Summary)

1/7/2019: Memorandum of Costs (Summary)

3 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 01/07/2019
  • at 08:30 AM in Department A, William D. Stewart, Presiding; Jury Trial (AND FINAL STATUS CONFERENCE) - Not Held - Advanced and Vacated

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  • 01/07/2019
  • Memorandum of Costs (Summary); Filed by Julia Sevier (Defendant)

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  • 01/07/2019
  • Notice of Ruling; Filed by Julia Sevier (Defendant)

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  • 01/04/2019
  • at 08:30 AM in Department A, William D. Stewart, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Dismiss - Held - Motion Granted

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  • 01/04/2019
  • Minute Order ((Hearing on Motion to Dismiss)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 01/03/2019
  • Witness List (Amended); Filed by Samir Ghannoum (Plaintiff); Mohammed Ghannoum (Plaintiff)

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  • 01/02/2019
  • Response (name extension) (to OSC Re: Why Case Should Not be Dismissed for Failure to Bring Case to Trial Within 3 Years); Filed by Samir Ghannoum (Plaintiff); Mohammed Ghannoum (Plaintiff)

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  • 11/16/2018
  • Request for Judicial Notice; Filed by Julia Sevier (Defendant)

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  • 11/16/2018
  • Motion to Dismiss; Filed by Julia Sevier (Defendant)

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  • 11/08/2018
  • Notice of Ruling; Filed by Julia Sevier (Defendant)

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92 More Docket Entries
  • 08/12/2015
  • Request for Entry of Default / Judgment; Filed by Samir Ghannoum (Plaintiff); Mohammed Ghannoum (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/12/2015
  • Default Entered; Filed by Samir Ghannoum (Plaintiff); Mohammed Ghannoum (Plaintiff)

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  • 07/21/2015
  • at 08:30 AM in Department A; Order to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service (OSC-Failure to File Proof of Serv; OSC Discharged) -

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  • 07/21/2015
  • Minute order entered: 2015-07-21 00:00:00; Filed by Clerk

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  • 07/21/2015
  • Proof of Service of Summons and Complaint; Filed by Samir Ghannoum (Plaintiff); Mohammed Ghannoum (Plaintiff)

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  • 07/17/2015
  • Declaration re: Service; Filed by Samir Ghannoum (Plaintiff); Mohammed Ghannoum (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/07/2015
  • Complaint filed-Summons Issued; Filed by null

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  • 05/07/2015
  • Summons; Filed by null

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  • 05/07/2015
  • Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Court

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  • 05/07/2015
  • OSC-Failure to File Proof of Serv; Filed by Court

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: EC064044    Hearing Date: January 03, 2020    Dept: A

Ghannoum v Sevier

Motion for Reconsideration

Calendar:

11

Case No.:

EC064044

Hearing Date:

January 03, 2020

Action Filed:

May 07, 2015

Jury Verdict:

October 15, 2019

MP:

Plaintiffs Samir Ghannoum; Mohamed Ghannoum

RP:

Defendant Julia K. Sevier

ALLEGATIONS:

Plaintiffs Samir and Mohammed Ghannoum (“Plaintiffs”) allege that they rented a room in their home to Defendant Julia K. Sevier (“Defendant”) beginning March 9, 2012, under a 3-month lease term. They allege that on July 26, 2012, Plaintiffs gave Defendant a notice of terminating tenancy and thereafter filed an unlawful detainer action to evict her on May 10, 2013. In June 2013, Defendant moved from the premises but removed and damaged property in Plaintiffs’ home in the amount of $39,300.00.

The Complaint, filed May 7, 2015, alleges causes of action for: (1) Conversion and (2) Trespass to Chattels.

PRESENTATION:

The instant action went to trial before a jury on or about October 08, 2019, and the Jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant on October 15, 2019. The underlying motion for attorney’s fees was thereafter filed by Defendant on October 16, 2019, with opposition filed by Plaintiff on October 30, 2019, and a reply brief filed on October 31, 2019. The Court heard oral arguments and issued an Order on November 15, 2019, grating attorneys fees and costs in the total amount of $95,807.15.

Plaintiffs filed the instant motion for reconsideration on November 25, 2019, opposition was thereafter filed on December 10, 2019. No reply brief has been received.

RELIEF REQUESTED:

Plaintiff moves for reconsideration of the Court’s November 15, 2019, Order, and deny attorney’s fees as to Plaintiff Samir Ghannoum only and reduce attorney’s fees by the amount spent on Plaintiff Samir Ghannoum’s claims.

DISCUSSION:

Standard of Review – Code of Civ. Proc. §1008 provides in relevant part: “When an application for an order has been made to a judge, or to a court, and refused in whole or in part, or granted, or granted conditionally, or on terms, any party affected by the order may, within 10 days after service upon the party of written notice of entry of the order and based upon new or different facts, circumstances, or law, make application to the same judge or court that made the order, to reconsider the matter and modify, amend, or revoke the prior order. The party making the application shall state by affidavit what application was made before, when and to what judge, what order or decisions were made, and what new or different facts, circumstances, or law are claimed to be shown.” The party seeking reconsideration must provide not just new evidence or different facts, but a satisfactory explanation for failure to produce that evidence at an earlier time. Mink v. Superior Court (1992) 2 Cal. App. 4th 1338, 1342. The provisions of Code of Civil Procedure Section 1008 delineate the court’s jurisdiction with respect to applications for reconsideration of its orders, whether interim or final. Code of Civil Procedure § 1008(e); Gilberd v. AC Transit (1995) 32 Cal. App. 4th 1494, 1499. Therefore, should the strict procedural limits of Code of Civil Procedure Section 1008 not be met, the court lacks jurisdiction to reconsider its prior ruling. See, e.g., Kerns v. CSE Insurance Group (2003) 106 Cal. App. 4th 368, 383.

On review, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to comply with Code of Civ. Proc. §1008(a)’s affidavit requirements, including a failure to indicate to the Court the reasons that this issue was not raised during the previous, fully briefed, motion. As such, the Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the instant application pursuant to Code of Civ. Proc. §1008(e), and the motion be denied.

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RULING: see below, in caps:

In the event the parties submit on this tentative ruling, or a party requests a signed order or the court in its discretion elects to sign a formal order, the following form will be either electronically signed or signed in hard copy and entered into the court’s records.

ORDER

Plaintiffs Samir Ghannoum and Mohamed Ghannoum’s Motion for Reconsideration came on regularly for hearing on January 03, 2020, with appearances/submissions as noted in the minute order for said hearing, and the court, being fully advised in the premises, did then and there rule as follows:

THE MOTION IS DENIED.

DATE: _______________ _______________________________

JUDGE

Case Number: EC064044    Hearing Date: November 15, 2019    Dept: A

Ghannoum v Sevier

Motion for Attorney’s Fees

Calendar:

11

Case No.:

EC064044

Hearing Date:

November 15, 2019

Action Filed:

May 07, 2015

Jury Verdict:

October 15, 2019

MP:

Defendant Julia K. Sevier

RP:

Plaintiffs Samir Ghannoum; Mohamed Ghannoum

ALLEGATIONS:

Plaintiffs Samir and Mohammed Ghannoum (“Plaintiffs”) allege that they rented a room in their home to Defendant Julia K. Sevier (“Defendant”) beginning March 9, 2012, under a 3-month lease term. They allege that on July 26, 2012, Plaintiffs gave Defendant a notice of terminating tenancy and thereafter filed an unlawful detainer action to evict her on May 10, 2013. In June 2013, Defendant moved from the premises but removed and damaged property in Plaintiffs’ home in the amount of $39,300.00.

The Complaint, filed May 7, 2015, alleges causes of action for: (1) Conversion and (2) Trespass to Chattels.

PRESENTATION:

The instant action went to trial before a jury on or about October 08, 2019, and the Jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant on October 15, 2019. The instant action for attorney’s fees was thereafter filed by Defendant on October 16, 2019, with opposition filed by Plaintiff on October 30, 2019, and a reply brief filed on October 31, 2019.

RELIEF REQUESTED:

Defendant moves for attorney’s fees in the amount of $116,527.10.

DISCUSSION:

Standard of Review – Civ. Code, § 1717 governs entitlement to attorney fees for “action[s] on a contract.” The statute provides in relevant part: “(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 . . . [¶] (b)(1) The court, upon notice and motion by a party, shall determine who is the party prevailing on the contract for purposes of this section, whether or not the suit proceeds to final judgment. Except as provided in paragraph (2), the party prevailing on the contract shall be the party who recovered a greater relief in the action on the contract. The court may also determine that there is no party prevailing on the contract for purposes of this section.” Civ. Code §1717(a), (b)(1).

“[W]hen the results of the litigation on the contract claims are not mixed – that is, when the decision on the litigated contract claims is purely good news for one party and bad news for the other – the Courts of Appeal have recognized that a trial court has no discretion to deny attorney fees to the successful litigant. Thus, when a defendant defeats recovery by the plaintiff on the only contract claim in the action, the defendant is the party prevailing on the contract under section 1717 as a matter of law. [Citations.] Similarly, a plaintiff who obtains all relief requested on the only contract claim in the action must be regarded as the party prevailing on the contract for purposes of attorney fees under section 1717.” Hsu v. Abbara (1995) 9 Cal. 4th 863, 875–76; see also F.D.I.C. v. Dintino (2008) 167 Cal. App. 4th 333, 357. Civ. Code §1717 applies only to contract claims. Civ. Code §1717(a); Santisas v. Goodin (1998) 17 Cal. 4th 599, 615. “If an action asserts both contract and tort or other noncontract claims, section 1717 applies only to attorney fees incurred to litigate the contract claims.” Santisas, supra, 17 Cal. 4th at p. 615, 619; Exxess Electronixx v. Heger Realty Corp. (1998) 64 Cal. App. 4th 698, 708. In determining which party, if any, prevailed on a contract claim for purposes of section 1717, the court does not consider the parties’ success or failure on non-contract claims. F.D.I.C., supra, 167 Cal. App. 4th at p. 358.

Timeliness of Mediation Acceptance – As an initial matter, Defendant argues that the instant action sounds in contract, which results in the application of the attorney’s fees provision in the underlying lease agreement by and between Defendant and Plaintiffs. Motion, 8:1-4. Plaintiffs concede the applicability of the contract, but argue that the Defendant waived the enforceability of the attorney’s fees provision by failing to respond to Plaintiffs’ offer to mediate within the seven (7) days offered by Plaintiffs in their April 02, 2015, offer to mediate. Opposition, 3:1-4:11.

On review of the Contract, the Court notes that the Contract terms do not impose any specific time limits on the period to offer mediation and accept mediation prior to the commencement of litigation. See Decl. of Sorkin, Ex. A, Sec. 37-38. As provided in the Civil Code: “If no time is specified for the performance of an act required to be performed, a reasonable time is allowed.” Civ. Code §1657. Here, Plaintiffs determined to set their own time to respond to their demand as “seven (7) days of the date of this letter”, dated April 02, 2015. Under Code of Civ. Proc. §1013 notice by mail is deemed effective outside of the state of California – as is the case here, with Plaintiffs mailing the letter to the State of Virginia – ten (10) days after posting. Therefore, assuming that Plaintiffs posted the letter the same day it was dated, then Defendant’s time to respond would have passed while the letter was deemed to be in transit to the recipient.

As a timeline that expires prior to the recipient having been deemed to have received the demand is unreasonable on its face, the Court finds that Defendant’s response on April 14, 2015, was a timely acceptance of Plaintiffs’ offer to mediate the claim.

Merits of the Motion – As there are no other objections to the applicability of the attorney’s fees provision, the sole remaining matter for determination is the reasonability of the fees requested. A person seeking attorney’s fees bears that “burden of showing that the fees incurred were ‘allowable,’ were ‘reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation,’ and were reasonable in amount.’” Levy v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (1992) 4 Cal. App. 4th 807, 816. The Court first notes that an attorney’s hourly rate is determined by the well-established legal standard that attorney’s fees for contested matters are calculated by the use of the Lodestar method. See, e.g., Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal. 4th 1122, 1134 (“[T]he fee setting inquiry in California ordinarily begins with the ‘lodestar,’ i.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate. . . . 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. [Citation]. 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.”).

A ‘reasonable’ attorney’s fee award generally falls “within the sound discretion of the trial judge.” Church of Scientology v. Wollersheim (1996) 42 Cal. App. 4th 628, 659. However, in making a determination on the reasonableness of attorney’s fees and costs, a trial court should consider (1) the nature of the litigation, (2) its difficulty, (3) the amount involved, (4) the skill required and the skill employed in handling the litigation, (5) the attention given, (6) the success of the attorney's efforts, (7) the attorney’s learning and age, (8) counsel’s experience in the particular type of work demanded the intricacies and importance of the litigation, and (9) the labor and necessity for skilled legal training and ability in trying the cause, and the time consumed. Church of Scientology, 42 Cal App 4th at 638-639.

Plaintiffs do not contest Defendant’s rate of $385/hr (between June 24, 2015, and December 31, 2016) and $425/hr (from January 01, 2017, to present). However, Plaintiffs contest certain items charged, specifically: (1) three 5 hour entries for research on a motion to quash summons on the grounds of res judicata, (2) 2 hours to place the motion to quash on calendar as an ex parte motion, (3) spending a total of 20.67 hours on preparing a demurrer, (4) spending 5.25 hours on discovery identical to discovery sent in prior litigations, (5) 5.25 hours preparing for trial, including on witness lists that were never produced, and (6) 14.74 hours on three motions in limine, which itself is a block billing entry. Plaintiff additionally argue that the hours charges are inconsistent, and include time calculations separated into quarter hours, third hours, and tenth hours.

The Court has reviewed the full timekeeping records provided by Defendant, and finds that the entries disputed by Plaintiffs do not represent duplicative entries or attempts by Defendant to churn or put a heavy thumb on the scale. Some entries do, however, indicate that Defendant’s counsel may have spent more time on this matter than is justifiable at the hourly rate charged. For example, counsel provides records that 32.59 hours were spent on the motion to quash and dismiss under res judicata in 2015. The court will reduce this total by twenty hours. (equal to $7,700.00 reduction.)

The court distinctly recalls informing counsel on January 4, 2019 that it was distinctly improvident to proceed with the motion hearing that day without any opposition or appearance by the plaintiff – that there must have been an unavoidable error or lack of notice involved, and indeed there was, resulting in a motion to set aside and still further delay in the progress of the case. The billings for the unnecessary activities totals $14,913.25 which sum the court will also deduct.

Accordingly, the Court will reduce the award of attorney’s fees from the claim of $116,527.10 by $22,613.25 for a total award of $93,913.85.

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RULING: Award $93,913.85.

In the event the parties submit on this tentative ruling, or a party requests a signed order or the court in its discretion elects to sign a formal order, the following form will be either electronically signed or signed in hard copy and entered into the court’s records.

ORDER

Defendant Julia K. Sevier’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees came on regularly for hearing on November 15, 2019, with appearances/submissions as noted in the minute order for said hearing, and the court, being fully advised in the premises, did then and there rule as follows:

THE MOTION IS GRANTED IN PART;

ATTORNEY’S FEES ARE AWARDED IN THE AMOUNT OF $93,913.85.

DATE: _______________ _______________________________

JUDGE