This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 06/18/2019 at 22:59:21 (UTC).

ANGIOLINA DERENZIN ET AL VS HAWTHORNE INTERNATIONA CORP

Case Summary

On 09/06/2017 ANGIOLINA DERENZIN filed a Labor - Wrongful Termination lawsuit against HAWTHORNE INTERNATIONA CORP. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is MONICA BACHNER. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****4791

  • Filing Date:

    09/06/2017

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Labor - Wrongful Termination

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

MONICA BACHNER

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs and Petitioners

ESCUDERO LEONARDO

MELENDEZ MILAGRITO

DERENZIN ANGIOLINA

Respondents and Defendants

DOES 1 TO 20

HAWTHORNE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorneys

ELIHU KAVEH S. ESQ.

ELIHU KAVEH SAM ESQ.

Respondent and Defendant Attorney

HOVANESSIAN VAHE ESQ.

 

Court Documents

Unknown

2/20/2018: Unknown

Unknown

2/20/2018: Unknown

Unknown

3/1/2018: Unknown

Minute Order

3/5/2018: Minute Order

PLAINTIFF MILAGRITO MELENDEZ?S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT?S DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS? FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES; DECLARATION OF AREEN BABAJANIAN

3/12/2018: PLAINTIFF MILAGRITO MELENDEZ?S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT?S DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS? FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES; DECLARATION OF AREEN BABAJANIAN

PLAINTIFFS? ANGIOLINA DERENZIN, LEONARDO ESCUDERO, AND MILAGRITO MELENDEZ?S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT HAWTHORNE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION? S MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFFS? COMPLAINT; MEMORANDU

3/12/2018: PLAINTIFFS? ANGIOLINA DERENZIN, LEONARDO ESCUDERO, AND MILAGRITO MELENDEZ?S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT HAWTHORNE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION? S MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFFS? COMPLAINT; MEMORANDU

REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

3/16/2018: REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO DEMURRER TO FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT BY DEFENDANT

3/16/2018: REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO DEMURRER TO FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT BY DEFENDANT

Minute Order

3/23/2018: Minute Order

RULING: DEFENDANT HAWTHORNE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION'S DEMURRER TO THE 7TH, 8TH 9TH 11TH AND 12TH COAS ASSERTED BY PLAINTIFF MILAGRITO MELENDEZ IN THE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT IS SUSTAINED, ETC

3/23/2018: RULING: DEFENDANT HAWTHORNE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION'S DEMURRER TO THE 7TH, 8TH 9TH 11TH AND 12TH COAS ASSERTED BY PLAINTIFF MILAGRITO MELENDEZ IN THE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT IS SUSTAINED, ETC

NOTICE OF ORDERS OF 03/23/2018: 1. GRANTING DEMURRER TO FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT; 2. DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE; AND 3. CONTINUING THE CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE TO MAY 17, 2018

4/2/2018: NOTICE OF ORDERS OF 03/23/2018: 1. GRANTING DEMURRER TO FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT; 2. DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE; AND 3. CONTINUING THE CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE TO MAY 17, 2018

ANSWER TO FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT BY DEFENDANT HAWTHORNE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION

4/2/2018: ANSWER TO FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT BY DEFENDANT HAWTHORNE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION

Unknown

4/30/2018: Unknown

NOTICE OF ORDERS AFTER CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

5/17/2018: NOTICE OF ORDERS AFTER CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

Unknown

5/17/2018: Unknown

Minute Order

5/17/2018: Minute Order

Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

10/5/2018: Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Memorandum of Points & Authorities

10/18/2018: Memorandum of Points & Authorities

51 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 05/15/2019
  • DocketNotice (of Order to Show Cause on 07/02/2019); Filed by Hawthorne International Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 05/14/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 71, Monica Bachner, Presiding; Hearing - Other (Regarding Objections to the Form of Judgment) - Held - Continued

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  • 05/14/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 71, Monica Bachner, Presiding; Order to Show Cause Re: (Judgment Against Defendant Hawthorne International Corporation) - Held - Continued

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  • 05/14/2019
  • DocketMinute Order ( (HEARING REGARDING OBJECTIONS TO THE FORM OF JUDGMENT ORDER T...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 05/03/2019
  • DocketObjection (to Plaintiffs' 04/19/2019 Filings); Filed by Hawthorne International Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 04/30/2019
  • Docketat 11:30 AM in Department 71, Monica Bachner, Presiding; Court Order

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  • 04/30/2019
  • DocketCertificate of Mailing for (Minute Order (COURT ORDER) of 04/30/2019); Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/30/2019
  • DocketMinute Order ( (COURT ORDER)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/19/2019
  • DocketOffer to Compromise and Acceptance Under Code of Civil Procedure Section 998; Filed by Leonardo Escudero (Plaintiff); Milagrito Melendez (Plaintiff)

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  • 04/19/2019
  • DocketOffer to Compromise and Acceptance Under Code of Civil Procedure Section 998; Filed by Leonardo Escudero (Plaintiff); Milagrito Melendez (Plaintiff)

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95 More Docket Entries
  • 11/07/2017
  • DocketMEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT OF DEMURRER TO COMPLAINT BY DEFENDANT

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  • 10/10/2017
  • DocketDECLARATION OF DEMURRING PARTY IN SUPPORT OF AUTOMATIC EXTENSION

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  • 10/10/2017
  • DocketDeclaration; Filed by Hawthorne International Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 09/25/2017
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT

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  • 09/25/2017
  • DocketProof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by Plaintiff/Petitioner

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  • 09/12/2017
  • DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

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  • 09/12/2017
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 09/06/2017
  • DocketCOMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES FOR: 1. DISCRIMINATION IN VIOLATION OF GOV'T CODE 1294O ET SEQ;ETC

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  • 09/06/2017
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Angiolina Derenzin (Plaintiff); Leonardo Escudero (Plaintiff); Milagrito Melendez (Plaintiff)

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  • 09/06/2017
  • DocketSUMMONS

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: ****4791    Hearing Date: July 07, 2020    Dept: 71

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

DEPARTMENT 71

TENTATIVE RULING

ANGIOLINA DEREZIN, et al.,

vs.

HAWTHORNE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, a California corporation, et al.

Case No.: ****4791

Hearing Date: July 7, 2020

Plaintiffs Leonardo Escudero and Milagrito Melendez’s motion for attorneys’ fees is granted in the amount of reduced amount of $78,666.00.

Plaintiffs Leonardo Escudero (“Escudero”) and Milagrito Melendez (“Melendez”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) move for an award of attorneys’ fees pursuant to C.C.P. ;1032 and Labor Code ;;218.5, 218.6, and 1194, in the amount of $134,243.75 ($88,162.50 in attorneys’ fees, $44,081.25 in a “lodestar” enhancement (1.5), and $2,000 for reviewing Defendant’s opposition to the instant motion and drafting a reply) against Defendant Hawthorne International Corporation (“Defendant”). (Notice of Motion, pgs. i-ii; Reply, pg. 12.) The Court has considered the Declaration of Areen Babajanian filed on 6/22/20.

Defendant’s 6/24/20 evidentiary objections to the Declaration of Areen Babajanian are overruled.

By way of background, on September 6, 2017, Plaintiffs and Plaintiff Angiolina Derenzin (“Derenzin”), who is not a party to the instant motion, filed their complaint for damages against Defendant for various wage and hour violations, as well as for violations of the FEHA. After two demurrers resulting in the operative first amended complaint (“FAC”), Escudero maintained his 7th (failure to pay wages), 9th (failure to pay overtime compensation), 11th (failure to provide itemized wage statements), 12th (waiting time penalties), and 13th (unfair competition) causes of action and Melendez maintained her 13th (unfair competition) cause of action. On January 3, 2019, Plaintiffs accepted Defendant’s C.C.P. ;998 Offers to Compromise, pursuant to which Defendant offered Escudero $30,000 and Melendez $2,000, excluding and reserving costs, expenses, and reasonable attorneys’ fees for Court determination, in exchange for dismissal of the action. (Decl. of Moorhead, Exhs. 3, 4.) On March 7, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Settlement of Entire Case with the Court and on October 3, 2019, Plaintiffs filed the instant motion.

Motion for Attorneys’ Fees

Labor Code ;218.5 provides: “In any action brought for the nonpayment of wages… the court shall award reasonable attorney's fees and costs to the prevailing party if any party to the action requests attorney’s fees and costs upon the initiation of the action.” Labor Code ;1194(a) provides: “Notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage, any employee receiving less than… the legal overtime compensation applicable to the employee is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance of the full amount of this… overtime compensation, including interest thereon, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs of suit.” Plaintiff seeks statutory attorneys fees in the amount of $132,243.75, calculated by the base amount of $88,162.50 with a 1.5 multiplier.

As discussed in the Court’s February 11, 2020 ruling, Plaintiffs are entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees as the prevailing parties in this action. (2/11/20 Ruling, pg. 3.) The Court declined to use its discretion to not award Melendez reasonable attorneys’ fees, as requested by Defendant, given that she was part of a larger action that achieved an overall judgment of more than the jurisdictional minimum and given Plaintiffs’ assertions that work performed on her case cannot be reasonably segregated from the work performed on Escudero’s case. (2/11/20 Ruling, pg. 3.)

Plaintiffs submitted documentation to support their requests for attorney’s fees, utilizing the lodestar analysis. Plaintiffs submitted declarations from counsel explaining the experience and the hourly rates for attorneys Elihu, Moorhead, and Babajanian. Plaintiffs request the hourly rate of $700 per hour for Elihu, $500 per hour for Babajanian and $400 per hour for Moorhead, and $125 for paralegals. (Motion, pg. 6.) No information was provided regarding the experience and hourly rates for attorneys Karina Godoy ($595 charged), Mallory Sepler-King ($910 charged) and Rob Nichols ($490) (Opposition, pg. 6). The court finds that the hourly rates of $700 per hour for Elihu, $400 per hour for Moorhead and $500 per hour for Babajanian are reasonable and supported. Although Moorhead states that his current hourly rate is $400 per hour (Decl. of Moorhead, ¶¶15-16), his total fee of $3,800 was charged at $500 per hour. (Decl. of Moorhead, Exh. 1.) Accordingly his fees are reduced by $760 to $3,040. Regarding attorneys Godoy, Sepler King, and Nichols, as their rates are unsupported, the court is reducing the fees awarded by $1,995. As previously ruled, Plaintiffs are not required to submit a declaration from every paralegal, legal assistant, or law clerk who incurred fees in connection with the instant matter. The Court finds that the hourly rate of $125 for lawclerk/paralegal/legal assistant fees are reasonable. Thus the total allowable attorney’s fees are $85,407.50

Without identifying specific entries, Defendant claims that there are excessive and duplicative actions taken by counsel, including “multiple billings on the same dates and for the same tasks exist between counsel as well as paralegals, legal assistant and law clerks.” (Opposition, pg. 8.) Defendant also claims that Plaintiffs entries are vague and generalized and thus request a 35% reduction. (Opposition, pgs. 8-9). Based upon the Court’s review, there are some duplicative or vague entries such as “discuss case.” Accordingly, the Court sets the lodestar amount as $78,666.00. Having established this lodestar amount, the court declines to impose a multiplier as the case was not complex, the issues were not novel and counsel were able to handle other matters. However, the Court also declines to reduce all fees to $5,000 as requested by defense. Plaintiffs also requested $2,000 in fees spent analyzing and evaluating Defendant’s Opposition (Reply, pg. 12); that request is denied as it is unsupported by evidence.

Considering all of the foregoing, the Court awards $78,666.00 in attorney’s fees.



Case Number: ****4791    Hearing Date: June 23, 2020    Dept: 71

Plaintiffs Leonardo Escudero and Milagrito Melendez’s motion for attorneys’ fees is continued to September 21, 2020 at 11:00 a.m.

Plaintiffs’ motion for costs is granted in the reduced total amount of $1,947.74, subject to the filing of the costs memorandum.

Plaintiffs Leonardo Escudero (“Escudero”) and Milagrito Melendez (“Melendez”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) move for an award of attorneys’ fees pursuant to C.C.P. ;1032 and Labor Code ;;218.5, 218.6, and 1194, in the amount of $134,243.75 ($88,162.50 in attorneys’ fees, $44,081.25 in a “lodestar” enhancement (1.5), and $2,000 for reviewing Defendant’s opposition to the instant motion and drafting a reply) against Defendant Hawthorne International Corporation (“Defendant”). (Notice of Motion, pgs. i-ii; Reply, pg. 12.) Plaintiffs also move for an award of costs, and expenses pursuant to C.C.P. ;;1032 and 1033.5 in the amount of $5,277.77. (Notice of Motion, pgs. i-ii.)

Defendant’s 1/29/20 evidentiary objections to the Declaration of Samuel J. Moorhead are overruled as to Exhibits Nos. 1 and 2 and as to Paragraphs Nos. 2 and 3.

Plaintiffs’ 2/26/20 request for judicial notice is granted as to Exhibits 1, 2, 4-5, 8, 10-13. However, the Court will not take judicial notice of the truth of the matters asserted within the documents. Plaintiffs’ request for judicial notice as to Exhibits 3, 7, 9-12 is denied. (B.F. v. Superior Court (2012) 207 Cal.App. 4th 621, 627, n.5.)

By way of background, the hearing on the instant motion was first held on February 11, 2020, during which the Court continued the hearing and requested that Plaintiffs file: (1) supplemental briefing to demonstrate that the claimed hourly rates are reasonable rates; and (2) their Memorandum of Costs, which, while served on Defendant, was not before the Court. On February 24, 2020, Defendant filed an opposition and request to strike or reduce Plaintiff’s Memorandum of Costs. On February 26, 2020, Plaintiffs filed supplemental briefing and a request for judicial notice; however, the Memorandum of Costs was not filed. Accordingly, the Court, on its own motion, continued the hearing to March 17, 2020. On March 11, 2020, Plaintiffs filed a reply to Defendant’s opposition and request to strike or reduce Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Costs. As of the date of this hearing, the Court is in possession of Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Costs and supporting worksheet, however it has not been filed with the Court.

As noted in the February 11, 2020 ruling, the instant motion is untimely as it was filed over 60 days after Plaintiffs filed a notice of settlement. (See CRC Rule 3.1702(b)(1); Opposition, pgs. 2-3.) However, the Court extended the time for Plaintiffs’ filing of the instant motion in light of Plaintiffs’ assertion that their failure to timely file the motion was due to inadvertence and neglect and given that Defendant has not submitted evidence suggesting the delay in filing prejudiced Defendant. (CRC Rule 3.1702(d).)

By way of background, on September 6, 2017, Plaintiffs and Plaintiff Angiolina Derenzin (“Derenzin”), who is not a party to the instant motion, filed their complaint for damages against Defendant for various wage and hour violations, as well as for violations of the FEHA. After two demurrers resulting in the operative first amended complaint (“FAC”), Escudero maintained his 7th (failure to pay wages), 9th (failure to pay overtime compensation), 11th (failure to provide itemized wage statements), 12th (waiting time penalties), and 13th (unfair competition) causes of action and Melendez maintained her 13th (unfair competition) cause of action. On January 3, 2019, Plaintiffs accepted Defendant’s C.C.P. ;998 Offers to Compromise, pursuant to which Defendant offered Escudero $30,000 and Melendez $2,000, excluding and reserving costs, expenses, and reasonable attorneys’ fees for Court determination, in exchange for dismissal of the action. (Decl. of Moorhead, Exhs. 3, 4.) On March 7, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Settlement of Entire Case with the Court and on October 3, 2019, Plaintiffs filed the instant motion.

Motion for Attorneys’ Fees

Labor Code ;218.5 provides: “In any action brought for the nonpayment of wages… the court shall award reasonable attorney's fees and costs to the prevailing party if any party to the action requests attorney’s fees and costs upon the initiation of the action.” Labor Code ;1194(a) provides: “Notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage, any employee receiving less than… the legal overtime compensation applicable to the employee is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance of the full amount of this… overtime compensation, including interest thereon, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs of suit.”

As discussed in the Court’s February 11, 2020 ruling, Plaintiffs are entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees as the prevailing parties in this action. (2/11/20 Ruling, pg. 3.) The Court declined to use its discretion to not award Melendez reasonable attorneys’ fees, as requested by Defendant, given that she was part of a larger action that achieved an overall judgment of more than the jurisdictional minimum and given Plaintiffs’ assertions that work performed on her case cannot be reasonably segregated from the work performed on Escudero’s case. (2/11/20 Ruling, pg. 3.) Finally, the Court found that Defendant’s arguments that Plaintiffs’ claimed an unreasonable number of hours and that Plaintiffs’ fees were not incurred or were unreasonable were conclusory and unsupported. (2/11/20 Ruling, pgs. 3-4.) The supplemental brief and declarations are still insufficient. First, there is no competent evidence as to any attorneys other than Elihu and Moorhead. Second, there is no breakdown as to the time spent by each attorney.

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees is continued to September 21, 2020.

Motion for Costs

Plaintiffs are entitled to an award of costs under Labor Code ;;218.5 and 1194(a) and C.C.P. ;;1033.5 and 1032 as the prevailing parties in this action.

The Court is in possession of Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Costs, which states that Plaintiffs claim total costs in the amount of $5,225.30. However, Plaintiffs’ motion seeks costs in the amount of $5,277 based on the record of costs incurred in the instant matter. (Motion, pgs. i, 11; Decl. of Moorhead ¶3; Exh. 2.) Plaintiffs are only entitled to seek the amount set forth on the Memorandum of Costs.

Defendant’s opposition argues that costs requested by Plaintiffs should be struck entirely on the grounds that the February 17, 2020 Memorandum of Costs is untimely and because no Memorandum of Costs has been filed with the Court. (Supp-Opposition, pg. 1.) However, the Court permitted Plaintiffs to file their Memorandum of Costs by February 18, 2020 and in reply, Plaintiffs submitted evidence suggesting they made the filing notwithstanding the fact that the eCourt does not reflect a Memorandum of Costs was filed on that day. (Supp-Reply, pg. 2.) Accordingly, Defendants’ request that the Memorandum of Costs be struck in its entirety is denied.

In the alternative, Defendant requests the Court strike or reduce costs claimed for certain items. (Opposition, pgs. 2-3.)

“‘If the items appearing in a cost bill appear to be proper charges, the burden

is on the party seeking to tax costs to show that they were not reasonable or necessary. On the other hand, if the items are properly objected to, they are put in issue and the burden of proof is on the party claiming them as costs.’” (Nelson v. Anderson (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 111, 131.)

Defendant’s request that the Court strike costs incurred for Item 1 (Filing and Motion Fees), Item 4 (Deposition Costs), and Item 5 (Service of Process) for Plaintiffs’ failure to provide dates of fees involved, for possibly being brought on behalf of non-moving plaintiff Derenzin, and/or for providing no payment or invoice to support the claim is denied. These costs appear to be proper charges and Defendant has the burden to show they were not reasonable or necessary, and Defendant has not met that burden simply by asserting Plaintiffs did not provide the dates the costs were incurred. Moreover, Plaintiffs submitted invoices addressing Defendant’s arguments. (Supp-Reply-Decl. of Moorhead ¶¶3-8, Exhs. B-K.)

Defendant also objected to certain costs claimed in Item 13 (Other). Here, Defendant met its burden as to the costs incurred for postage and copies and for travel costs not associated with taking depositions, which are not recoverable. (See Ladas v. California State Auto. Assn. (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 761, 775 [“The only travel expenses authorized by section 1033.5 are those to attend depositions. ([C.C.P. ;1033.5(a)(3)].) Routine expenses for local travel by attorneys or other firm employees are not reasonably necessary to the conduct of litigation.”]; see also C.C.P. ;1033.5(b)(3) [Postage fees are not allowable as costs, except where expressly authorized by law.].) As such, the Court strikes the costs incurred in connection with routine travel and postage fees in the amount of $219.00.

Defendant also objects to messenger and service fees. (Supp-Opposition, pg. 3.) However, messenger charges are recoverable. (See Ladas v. California State Auto. Assn. (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 761, 776.) As such, Defendant has not met its burden.

Defendant also objects to mediation costs as less than the amount claimed and improper given that the mediation was for all plaintiffs including non-moving Plaintiff Derenzin. (Supp-Opposition, pg. 3.) While mediation fees are not explicitly included as an allowable cost, the Court has discretion to award mediation fees. (See Gibson v. Bobroff (1996) 49 Cal.App.4th 1202, 1209 [“We hold that when an unsuccessful mediation has been court-ordered, reasonably necessary expenses incident thereto may, in the sound discretion of the trial court, be awarded after trial to a prevailing party.”].) However, the parties submitted no evidence suggesting the Court ordered mediation and Defendant has cited no authority indicating it is entitled to fees incurred in private mediation. Accordingly, Defendant’s request to tax the mediation costs is granted in the amount of $3,058.56, the amount Plaintiffs claim for mediation.

As discussed above, subject to the filing of the Memorandum of Costs, the Court strikes the following costs from Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Costs: (1) $119 in costs claimed for routine travel; (2) $100 in copies and postage; and (3) $3,058.56, for a total amount of $3,277.56, which the Court subtracts from the requested total amount on the Memorandum of Costs, $5,225.30, to determine the amount of costs to which Plaintiffs are entitled.

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiffs’ motion for costs is granted in the reduced total amount of $1,947.74.



Case Number: ****4791    Hearing Date: March 17, 2020    Dept: 71

ANGIOLINA DEREZIN, et al.,

vs.

HAWTHORNE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, a California corporation, et al.

Case No.: ****4791

Hearing Date: March 17, 2020

Plaintiffs Leonardo Escudero and Milagrito Melendez’s motion for attorneys’ fees is continued to May 1, 2020.

Plaintiffs’ motion for costs is granted in the reduced total amount of $1,947.74.

Plaintiffs Leonardo Escudero (“Escudero”) and Milagrito Melendez (“Melendez”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) move for an award of attorneys’ fees pursuant to C.C.P. ;1032 and Labor Code ;;218.5, 218.6, and 1194, in the amount of $134,243.75 ($88,162.50 in attorneys’ fees, $44,081.25 in a “lodestar” enhancement (1.5), and $2,000 for reviewing Defendant’s opposition to the instant motion and drafting a reply) against Defendant Hawthorne International Corporation (“Defendant”). (Notice of Motion, pgs. i-ii; Reply, pg. 12.) Plaintiffs also move for an award of costs, and expenses pursuant to C.C.P. ;;1032 and 1033.5 in the amount of $5,277.77. (Notice of Motion, pgs. i-ii.)

Defendant’s 1/29/20 evidentiary objections to the Declaration of Samuel J. Moorhead are overruled as to Exhibits Nos. 1 and 2 and as to Paragraphs Nos. 2 and 3.

Plaintiffs’ 2/26/20 request for judicial notice is granted as to Exhibits 1, 2, 4-5, 8, 10-13. However, the Court will not take judicial notice of the truth of the matters asserted within the documents. Plaintiffs’ request for judicial notice as to Exhibits 3, 7, 9-12 is denied. (B.F. v. Superior Court (2012) 207 Cal.App. 4th 621, 627, n.5.)

By way of background, the hearing on the instant motion was first held on February 11, 2020, during which the Court continued the hearing and requested that Plaintiffs file: (1) supplemental briefing to demonstrate that the claimed hourly rates are reasonable rates; and (2) their Memorandum of Costs, which, while served on Defendant, was not before the Court. On February 24, 2020, Defendant filed an opposition and request to strike or reduce Plaintiff’s Memorandum of Costs. On February 26, 2020, Plaintiffs filed supplemental briefing and a request for judicial notice; however, the Memorandum of Costs was not filed. Accordingly, the Court, on its own motion, continued the hearing to March 17, 2020. On March 11, 2020, Plaintiffs filed a reply to Defendant’s opposition and request to strike or reduce Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Costs. As of the date of this hearing, the Court is in possession of Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Costs and supporting worksheet.

As noted in the February 11, 2020 ruling, the instant motion is untimely as it was filed over 60 days after Plaintiffs filed a notice of settlement. (See CRC Rule 3.1702(b)(1); Opposition, pgs. 2-3.) However, the Court extended the time for Plaintiffs’ filing of the instant motion in light of Plaintiffs’ assertion that their failure to timely file the motion was due to inadvertence and neglect and given that Defendant has not submitted evidence suggesting the delay in filing prejudiced Defendant. (CRC Rule 3.1702(d).)

By way of background, on September 6, 2017, Plaintiffs and Plaintiff Angiolina Derenzin (“Derenzin”), who is not a party to the instant motion, filed their complaint for damages against Defendant for various wage and hour violations, as well as for violations of the FEHA. After two demurrers resulting in the operative first amended complaint (“FAC”), Escudero maintained his 7th (failure to pay wages), 9th (failure to pay overtime compensation), 11th (failure to provide itemized wage statements), 12th (waiting time penalties), and 13th (unfair competition) causes of action and Melendez maintained her 13th (unfair competition) cause of action. On January 3, 2019, Plaintiffs accepted Defendant’s C.C.P. ;998 Offers to Compromise, pursuant to which Defendant offered Escudero $30,000 and Melendez $2,000, excluding and reserving costs, expenses, and reasonable attorneys’ fees for Court determination, in exchange for dismissal of the action. (Decl. of Moorhead, Exhs. 3, 4.) On March 7, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Settlement of Entire Case with the Court and on October 3, 2019, Plaintiffs filed the instant motion.

Motion for Attorneys’ Fees

Labor Code ;218.5 provides: “In any action brought for the nonpayment of wages… the court shall award reasonable attorney's fees and costs to the prevailing party if any party to the action requests attorney’s fees and costs upon the initiation of the action.” Labor Code ;1194(a) provides: “Notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage, any employee receiving less than… the legal overtime compensation applicable to the employee is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance of the full amount of this… overtime compensation, including interest thereon, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs of suit.”

As discussed in the Court’s February 11, 2020 ruling, Plaintiffs are entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees as the prevailing parties in this action. (2/11/20 Ruling, pg. 3.) The Court declined to use its discretion to not award Melendez reasonable attorneys’ fees, as requested by Defendant, given that she was part of a larger action that achieved an overall judgment of more than the jurisdictional minimum and given Plaintiffs’ assertions that work performed on her case cannot be reasonably segregated from the work performed on Escudero’s case. (2/11/20 Ruling, pg. 3.) Finally, the Court found that Defendant’s arguments that Plaintiffs’ claimed an unreasonable number of hours and that Plaintiffs’ fees were not incurred or were unreasonable were conclusory and unsupported. (2/11/20 Ruling, pgs. 3-4.) The supplemental brief and declarations are still insufficient. First, there is no competent evidence as to any attorneys other than Elihu and Moorhead. Second, there is no breakdown as to the time spent by each attorney.

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees is continued to May 1, 2020.

Motion for Costs

Plaintiffs are entitled to an award of costs under Labor Code ;;218.5 and 1194(a) and C.C.P. ;;1033.5 and 1032 as the prevailing parties in this action.

The Court is in possession of Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Costs, which states that Plaintiffs claim total costs in the amount of $5,225.30. However, Plaintiffs’ motion seeks costs in the amount of $5,277 based on the record of costs incurred in the instant matter. (Motion, pgs. i, 11; Decl. of Moorhead ¶3; Exh. 2.) Plaintiffs are only entitled to seek the amount set forth on the Memorandum of Costs.

Defendant’s opposition argues that costs requested by Plaintiffs should be struck entirely on the grounds that the February 17, 2020 Memorandum of Costs is untimely and because no Memorandum of Costs has been filed with the Court. (Supp-Opposition, pg. 1.) However, the Court permitted Plaintiffs to file their Memorandum of Costs by February 18, 2020 and in reply, Plaintiffs submitted evidence suggesting they made the filing notwithstanding the fact that the eCourt does not reflect a Memorandum of Costs was filed on that day. (Supp-Reply, pg. 2.) Accordingly, Defendants’ request that the Memorandum of Costs be struck in its entirety is denied.

In the alternative, Defendant requests the Court strike or reduce costs claimed for certain items. (Opposition, pgs. 2-3.)

“‘If the items appearing in a cost bill appear to be proper charges, the burden

is on the party seeking to tax costs to show that they were not reasonable or necessary. On the other hand, if the items are properly objected to, they are put in issue and the burden of proof is on the party claiming them as costs.’” (Nelson v. Anderson (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 111, 131.)

Defendant’s request that the Court strike costs incurred for Item 1 (Filing and Motion Fees), Item 4 (Deposition Costs), and Item 5 (Service of Process) for Plaintiffs’ failure to provide dates of fees involved, for possibly being brought on behalf of non-moving plaintiff Derenzin, and/or for providing no payment or invoice to support the claim is denied. These costs appear to be proper charges and Defendant has the burden to show they were not reasonable or necessary, and Defendant has not met that burden simply by asserting Plaintiffs did not provide the dates the costs were incurred. Moreover, Plaintiffs submitted invoices addressing Defendant’s arguments. (Supp-Reply-Decl. of Moorhead ¶¶3-8, Exhs. B-K.)

Defendant also objected to certain costs claimed in Item 13 (Other). Here, Defendant met its burden as to the costs incurred for postage and copies and for travel costs not associated with taking depositions, which are not recoverable. (See Ladas v. California State Auto. Assn. (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 761, 775 [“The only travel expenses authorized by section 1033.5 are those to attend depositions. ([C.C.P. ;1033.5(a)(3)].) Routine expenses for local travel by attorneys or other firm employees are not reasonably necessary to the conduct of litigation.”]; see also C.C.P. ;1033.5(b)(3) [Postage fees are not allowable as costs, except where expressly authorized by law.].) As such, the Court strikes the costs incurred in connection with routine travel and postage fees in the amount of $219.00.

Defendant also objects to messenger and service fees. (Supp-Opposition, pg. 3.) However, messenger charges are recoverable. (See Ladas v. California State Auto. Assn. (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 761, 776.) As such, Defendant has not met its burden.

Defendant also objects to mediation costs as less than the amount claimed and improper given that the mediation was for all plaintiffs including non-moving Plaintiff Derenzin. (Supp-Opposition, pg. 3.) While mediation fees are not explicitly included as an allowable cost, the Court has discretion to award mediation fees. (See Gibson v. Bobroff (1996) 49 Cal.App.4th 1202, 1209 [“We hold that when an unsuccessful mediation has been court-ordered, reasonably necessary expenses incident thereto may, in the sound discretion of the trial court, be awarded after trial to a prevailing party.”].) However, the parties submitted no evidence suggesting the Court ordered mediation and Defendant has cited no authority indicating it is entitled to fees incurred in private mediation. Accordingly, Defendant’s request to tax the mediation costs is granted in the amount of $3,058.56, the amount Plaintiffs claim for mediation.

As discussed above, the Court strikes the following costs from Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Costs: (1) $119 in costs claimed for routine travel; (2) $100 in copies and postage; and (3) $3,058.56, for a total amount of $3,277.56, which the Court subtracts from the requested total amount on the Memorandum of Costs, $5,225.30, to determine the amount of costs to which Plaintiffs are entitled.

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiffs’ motion for costs is granted in the reduced total amount of $1,947.74.

Dated: March _____, 2020

Hon. Monica Bachner

Judge of the Superior Court