Search

Attributes

This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 11/21/2018 at 16:07:20 (UTC).

ANI KEMKEMIAN ET AL VS SARA RENYER DAKARMEN, ET AL

Case Summary

On 06/08/2017 ANI KEMKEMIAN filed a Property - Other Property Fraud lawsuit against SARA RENYER DAKARMEN. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are SAMANTHA P. JESSNER, DEBRE K. WEINTRAUB, ELIZABETH R. FEFFER and DEBRE KATZ WEINTRAUB. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****4277

  • Filing Date:

    06/08/2017

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Property - Other Property Fraud

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

SAMANTHA P. JESSNER

DEBRE K. WEINTRAUB

ELIZABETH R. FEFFER

DEBRE KATZ WEINTRAUB

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs, Petitioners and Cross Defendants

DAKARMENJIAN KIVORK INDIVIDUALLY AND AS

DAKARMENJIAN ELIZABETTE INDIVIDUALLY

KEMKEMIAN ANI

DAKARMENJIAN KIVORK

DAKARMENJIAN ELIZABETTE

ALL PERSONS UNKNOWN CLAIMING ANY LEGAL...

DAKARMENJIAN AVEDIS (SHAWN)

ROES 1 THROUGH 50

LEGAL... ALL PERSONS UNKNOWN CLAIMING ANY

DAKARMENJIAN AVEDIS SHAWN

Defendants, Respondents and Not Classified By Court

DAKARMENJIAN TROUD

MOLINA C.

DAKARMENJIAN SARA REYNER

DOES 1 TO 50

DOE JOHN

ALL PERSONS UNKNOWN CLAIMING ANY LEGAL...

DAKARMENJIAN AVEDIS (SHAWN)

MOLINA CLAUDIA

DAKARMEN SARA

DAKARMEN SARA REYNER [PERSONAL REP.]

COLLATERALIZED INVEST. ACQUISITIONS LLC

LEGAL... ALL PERSONS UNKNOWN CLAIMING ANY

DAKARMENJIAN AVEDIS SHAWN

DAKARMENJIAN KIVORK

DAKARMENJIAN ELIZABETTE

Defendants, Respondents, Cross Plaintiffs and Not Classified By Court

DAKARMENJIAN SARA REYNER

DAKARMEN SARA

DAKARMEN SARA REYNER [PERSONAL REP.]

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff, Petitioner and Cross Defendant Attorneys

ALPERT JEFFREY P. ESQ.

BROWN JOSEPH R. LAW OFFICES OF

BROWN JOSEPH R.

ALPERT LAW GROUP APC

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorneys

ALPERT JEFFREY P. ESQ.

BROWN JOSEPH R. LAW OFFICES OF

Defendant, Respondent and Cross Plaintiff Attorneys

KERR JOHN DALE ESQ.

AGOPOGLU BERC. ESQ.

GHAHREMAN KYAN CHRISTOPHER ESQ.

LACEY KEVIN S. ESQ.

THE AGOPOGLU LAW CORP. PLC

JOHN DALE KERR LAW OFFICES OF

K. CHRISTOPHER GHAHREMAN LAW OFFICES OF

HOWARD R. PRICE ATTORNEY AT LAW

Plaintiff, Not Classified By Court and Cross Defendant Attorneys

BROWN JOSEPH R.

THE AGOPOGLU LAW CORP. PLC

JOHN DALE KERR LAW OFFICES OF

K. CHRISTOPHER GHAHREMAN LAW OFFICES OF

HOWARD R. PRICE ATTORNEY AT LAW

 

Court Documents

DEFENDANT'S SARA DAKARMEN VERIFIED ANSWER TO SECOND AMENDED CAMPLAINT

3/12/2018: DEFENDANT'S SARA DAKARMEN VERIFIED ANSWER TO SECOND AMENDED CAMPLAINT

DECLARATION OF DEFENDANT CLAUDIA MOLINAS ATTORNEY, K. C. GHAHREMAN, REGARDING CONFERENCE WITH OPPOSING COUNSEL PRIOR TO FILING DEMURRER AND MOTION TO STRIKE

3/19/2018: DECLARATION OF DEFENDANT CLAUDIA MOLINAS ATTORNEY, K. C. GHAHREMAN, REGARDING CONFERENCE WITH OPPOSING COUNSEL PRIOR TO FILING DEMURRER AND MOTION TO STRIKE

NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFFS? SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT MADE BY DEFENDANT CLAUDIA MOLINA; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES

3/19/2018: NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFFS? SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT MADE BY DEFENDANT CLAUDIA MOLINA; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES

DEFENDANT COLLATERALIZED INVESTMENT ACQUISITIONS, LLC'S CROSS-COMPLAINT

4/10/2018: DEFENDANT COLLATERALIZED INVESTMENT ACQUISITIONS, LLC'S CROSS-COMPLAINT

NOTICE RE; CONTINUANCE OF HEARING DEMURRER AND WMTN TO STRIKE TO SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

5/2/2018: NOTICE RE; CONTINUANCE OF HEARING DEMURRER AND WMTN TO STRIKE TO SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

5/2/2018: NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

CROSS-COMPLAINANT CLAUDIA MOLINA'S CROSS-COMPLAINT FOR: 1. EQUITABLE INDEMNITY; 2. CONTRIBUTION; 3. DECLARATORY RELIEF

7/24/2018: CROSS-COMPLAINANT CLAUDIA MOLINA'S CROSS-COMPLAINT FOR: 1. EQUITABLE INDEMNITY; 2. CONTRIBUTION; 3. DECLARATORY RELIEF

DEFENDANT'S SARA DAKARMEN ANSWER TO CROSS- COMPLAINT AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF TROUD STROUD DAKARMENJIAN

9/4/2018: DEFENDANT'S SARA DAKARMEN ANSWER TO CROSS- COMPLAINT AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF TROUD STROUD DAKARMENJIAN

NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT.

12/29/2017: NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT.

Minute Order

1/5/2018: Minute Order

SECOND AMENDED VERIFIED COMPLAINT FOR: (1) DECLARATORY RELIEF (QUIET TITLE), ETC

1/8/2018: SECOND AMENDED VERIFIED COMPLAINT FOR: (1) DECLARATORY RELIEF (QUIET TITLE), ETC

SUMMONS - SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

1/8/2018: SUMMONS - SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

Unknown

10/18/2017: Unknown

VERIFIED COMPLAINT FOR: 1. QUIET TITLE ;ETC

6/8/2017: VERIFIED COMPLAINT FOR: 1. QUIET TITLE ;ETC

SUMMONS

6/8/2017: SUMMONS

NOTICE OF LIS PENDENS

6/8/2017: NOTICE OF LIS PENDENS

PROOF OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS

8/7/2017: PROOF OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS

NOTICE OF HEARING ON THE DEMURRER OF DEFENDANT SARA REYNER DAKARMENJIAN TO THE COMPLAINT OF ANI KEMKEMIAN AS ATTORNEY-IN -FACT OF KIVORK AND ELIZABETTE TRUST, AND DEMURRER TO COMPLAINT; ETC.

8/31/2017: NOTICE OF HEARING ON THE DEMURRER OF DEFENDANT SARA REYNER DAKARMENJIAN TO THE COMPLAINT OF ANI KEMKEMIAN AS ATTORNEY-IN -FACT OF KIVORK AND ELIZABETTE TRUST, AND DEMURRER TO COMPLAINT; ETC.

57 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 09/04/2018
  • DEFENDANT'S SARA DAKARMEN ANSWER TO CROSS-COMPLAINT OF CLAUDIA MOLINA AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF TROUD STROUD DAKARMENJIAN

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 09/04/2018
  • Answer to Cross-Complaint; Filed by Sara Dakarmen (Legacy Party); Sara Reyner [Personal Rep.] Dakarmen (Legacy Party)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 09/04/2018
  • DEFENDANT'S SARA DAKARMEN ANSWER TO CROSS- COMPLAINT AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF TROUD STROUD DAKARMENJIAN

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 09/04/2018
  • Answer to Cross-Complaint; Filed by Defendant and Cross-Complainant

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 07/24/2018
  • CROSS-COMPLAINANT CLAUDIA MOLINA'S CROSS-COMPLAINT FOR: 1. EQUITABLE INDEMNITY; 2. CONTRIBUTION; 3. DECLARATORY RELIEF

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 07/24/2018
  • Answer to Second Amended Complaint; Filed by Claudia Molina (Defendant)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 07/24/2018
  • Cross-Complaint; Filed by Claudia Molina (Defendant)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 07/24/2018
  • VERIFIED ANSWER OF DEFENDANT CLAUDIA MOLINA TO PLAINTIFFS' SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/22/2018
  • NOTICE OF: 1) TRIAL SETFING; 2) FINAL STATUS CONFFRENCE; 3) POST MEDIATION STATUS CONFERENCE; AND 4) CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE.

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/22/2018
  • Notice; Filed by Plaintiff/Petitioner

    Read MoreRead Less
119 More Docket Entries
  • 08/07/2017
  • PROOF OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/21/2017
  • NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/21/2017
  • ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE HEARING

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/21/2017
  • Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/21/2017
  • OSC-Failure to File Proof of Serv; Filed by Clerk

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/08/2017
  • NOTICE OF LIS PENDENS

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/08/2017
  • VERIFIED COMPLAINT FOR: 1. QUIET TITLE ;ETC

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/08/2017
  • SUMMONS

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/08/2017
  • Complaint; Filed by Ani Kemkemian (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 04/27/2017
  • General Denial; Filed by Kivork Dakarmenjian (Legacy Party); Elizabette Dakarmenjian (Legacy Party)

    Read MoreRead Less

Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC664277    Hearing Date: February 16, 2021    Dept: 39

Kivork Dakarmenjian, et al. Sara Renyer Dakarmen, et al.

Case No. BC664277

Motion for Attorneys’ Fees

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs seek costs and attorneys’ fees following a bench trial before this Court (Feffer, J.). Following the trial, the Court issued a statement of decision finding that Plaintiffs prevailed on causes of action for quiet title, cancellation of forged deeds, fraud, and elder abuse. Because Plaintiffs prevailed on the cause of action for elder abuse, they now seek attorneys’ fees and costs, per Welfare and Institutions Code section 15657.5(a). Defendants oppose the motion, which is granted.

 

BACKGROUND

 

On or about September 8, 2006, Kivork Dakarmenjian and Elizabette Dakarmenjian, the original plaintiffs in this action, established a revocable living trust, referred to as the Kivork Dakarmenjian and Elizabette Dakarmenjian Living Trust, Dated September 8, 2006 (the “2006 Trust”). Kivork and Elizabette transferred their real estate holdings into the 2006 Trust upon its establishment. These properties included their residence at 18901 Salt Lake Place, Northridge, California 91326 (the “Salt Lake Property”) and a commercial/industrial property at 9797 Glenoaks Boulevard, Sun Valley, California 91352 (the “Glenoaks Property”) (collectively the “Subject Properties”). Deeds transferring title of the Subject Properties to the 2006 Trust were recorded on December 27, 2007.

Troud Dakarmenjian was the son of Kivork Dakarmenjian and Elizabette Dakarmenjian and ran an auto dismantling business with his wife, Sara Renyer Dakarmen. On May 18, 2017, Troud Dakarmenjian was arrested on suspicion of running a “chop shop,” and he committed suicide about one week later. Following his arrest, Kivork Dakarmenjian and Elizabette Dakarmenjian discovered that the Subject Properties had been transferred into the name of Troud Dakarmenjian through a series of forged deeds. Kivork Dakarmenjian and Elizabette Dakarmenjian filed this action on January 8, 2017 against, among others, their daughter-in-law, Sara Dakarmen, in her individual capacity and as personal representative of the Estate of Troud Stroud Dakarmenjian. Sara Dakarmen filed a cross-complaint against Kivork Dakarmenjian and Elizabette Dakarmenjian asserting a single cause of action for breach of contract. Specifically, Sara Dakarmen’s cross-complaint alleged that the Subject Properties were community property, per an oral agreement. Following the deaths of Kivork Dakarmenjian and Elizabette Dakarmenjian, their two adult daughters, Ani Kemkemian and Sevan Weir, because the successor plaintiffs (“Plaintiffs”).

Ultimately, the case proceeded to trial against Sara Dakarmen (“Defendant”) on Plaintiffs’ causes of action for quiet title, cancellation of forged deeds, fraud, and elder abuse, and Defendant’s cross-complaint. The bench trial was conducted before the Honorable Elizabeth R. Feffer on November 6, 7, 12, 13, and 15, 2019 and January 6, 2020. Judge Feffer issued a statute of decision on April 22, 2020, finding in favor of Plaintiffs on their causes of action and on Defendant’s cross-complaint. In particular, Judge Feffer found that Plaintiffs satisfied their burden on the cause of action for elder abuse against the Estate of Troud Dakarmenjian. Now, Plaintiffs seek their costs and attorneys’ fees against Sara Dakarmen in her capacity as the personal representative of the Estate of Troud Stroud Dakarmenjian. Sara Dakarmen is not liable for attorney’s fees in her individual capacity, since she was not named as an individual defendant with respect to the cause of action for elder abuse.

The Court (Aenlle-Rocha, J.) previously held a hearing on this motion. Plaintiffs requested attorney’s fees in the amount of $152,672.50, and costs in the amount of $12,459.95. Plaintiffs argued that they were entitled to all of their fees because all of the claims and defenses arose from issues common to the cause of action for elder abuse. Defendants disagreed and argued that there must be apportionment. The Court agreed with Defendants, finding that: “Plaintiffs are not entitled to recover all attorney’s fees and costs incurred in this action from Troud’s estate.” (Minute Order, dated October 9, 2020, at p.8.) The Court continued the hearing to afford the parties an opportunity to provide briefing on the apportionment of attorneys’ fees between the elder abuse cause of action and the rest of the case.

LEGAL STANDARD

A prevailing party in entitled to recover costs. (Code Civ. Proc. § 1032(a)(4). In addition, a prevailing part in an elder abuse case is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees (as well as costs): “Where it is proven by a preponderance of the evidence that a defendant is liable or financial abuse, as defined in Section 15610.30, in addition to compensatory damages and all other remedies provided by law, the court shall award to the plaintiff reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.” (Welf. & Inst. Code § 15657.5(a).)

The fee setting inquiry in California ordinarily begins with the “lodestar” method, i.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate. 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. 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. (Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20 Cal.3d 25, 49.) 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. at p.48, n.23.) After the trial court has performed the lodestar calculations, it shall consider whether the total award so calculated under all of the circumstances of the case is more than a reasonable amount and, if so, shall reduce the section 1717 award so that it is a reasonable figure. (PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095-96.) The factors considered in determining the modification of the lodestar include the nature and difficulty of the litigation, the amount of money involved, the skill required and employed to handle the case, the attention given, the success or failure, and other circumstances in the case. (EnPalm, LLC v. Teitler Family Trust (2008) 162 Cal. App. 4th 770, 774 (emphasis in original).) A negative modifier was appropriate when duplicative work had been performed. (Thayer v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 819.)

DISCUSSION

As an initial matter, Defendant focuses on the fact that neither Judge Aenlle-Rocha nor the undersigned was the trial judge. Although true, it is not relevant. The Elder Abuse statute mandates an award of attorney’s fees, and Judge Feffer retired. Therefore, a judge other than the trial judge necessarily must decide the issue of attorney’s fees.

Plaintiffs filed a memorandum of costs totaling $12,370.34, and an amended memorandum of costs totaling $12,459.95. Defendant does not appear to challenge the award of $12,459.95 in costs, so the Court orders her to pay that amount of Plaintiffs. Rather, Defendant challenges the award of attorney’s fees, which the Court will address.

In their motion, Plaintiffs request attorney’s fees in the amount of $152,672.50. Of this amount, Mr. Joseph R. Brown, Esq. claims $144,075 based upon 480.25 hours of billable time at a rate of $300 per hour. The remainder of this amount ($8,597.50) is claimed by Plaintiffs’ prior counsel, Mr. Jeffrey Alpert. Per their supplemental brief, Plaintiffs now seek to recover attorney’s fees in the amount of $122,439. Plaintiffs represent that approximately 30% of the trial brief, closing argument, discovery responses, and proposed statements of decision addressed the issues in the cross-complaint, so Plaintiffs reduced the requested amount of attorney’s fees accordingly. However, Plaintiffs argue that the discovery, trial preparation, and trial were “so inextricably intertwined that they cannot be reasonably separated.” (Plaintiff’s Supplemental Brief, p.4.) The Court shall address Mr. Brown and Mr. Alpert’s fees separately.

Mr. Brown billed $144,075 based upon 480.25 hours at a rate of $300 per hour. The Court finds that Mr. Brown’s rate of $300 per hour is fair and reasonable under the circumstances. Thus, the Court is faced primarily with the difficult task of segregating the attorney’s fees between three parts of this case: (1) Plaintiffs’ cause of action for elder abuse, (2) Plaintiffs’ causes of act for quiet title, cancellation of forged deeds, and fraud, and (3) Plaintiffs’ defense to the cross-complaint. The Court agrees with Plaintiffs that the cause of action for elder abuse and the causes of action for quiet title, cancellation of forged deeds, and fraud were inextricably intertwined. In simple terms, the fraud in this case was forging the deeds and transferring the Subject Properties without consent, which constituted elder abuse, and the remedy was quiet title and cancellation of the forged deeds. “When a cause of action for which attorney fees are provided by statute is joined with other causes of action for which attorney fees are not permitted, the prevailing party may recover only on the statutory causes of action. However, the joinder of causes of action should not dilute the right to attorney fees. Such fees need not be apportioned when incurred for representation of an issue common to both a cause of action for which fees are permitted and one for which they are not. All expenses incurred on the common issues qualify for an award.” (Akins v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 1127, 1133.) “When the liability issues are so interrelated that it would have been impossible to separate them into claims for which attorney fees are properly awarded and claims for which they are not, then allocation is not required.” (Ibid.) For this reason, the Court need not segregate the attorney’s fees among Plaintiffs’ causes of action in their affirmative case. Instead, the Court must segregate the attorneys’ fees between Plaintiffs’ affirmative case and their defense to the cross-complaint.

The Court starts with Plaintiffs’ estimate that 30% of the trial brief, closing argument, discovery responses, and proposed statements of decision related to the cross-complaint. Based upon this metric, Mr. Brown’s total billable time of 480.25 hours would be allocated as approximately 336 hours to Plaintiffs’ affirmative case, and 144.25 hours to Plaintiffs’ defense to the cross-complaint. This is not dispositive, however, because the Court is required to evaluate this amount was reasonable under the circumstances. The Court’s review of the record suggests that 336 hours underestimates the time that Mr. Brown reasonably spent on issues specific to the cause of action for elder abuse. Instead, the Court believes that 360 hours reasonably reflects the amount of time Mr. Brown spent on the issues specific to the elder abuse cause of action. Therefore, Plaintiffs are entitled to $108,000 for Mr. Brown’s fees.

The Court considers Plaintiffs’ bills to Mr. Alpert separately, since he performed much less work than Mr. Brown. Plaintiffs seek a total of $8,597.50 in fees. The Court first applies the same hourly rate as with Mr. Brown, which is $300 per hour, as that is fair and reasonable under the circumstances. Based upon its review of the record, the Court finds that 15 hours is appropriate. Therefore, Plaintiffs are entitled to $4,500 for Mr. Alpert’s fees.

Finally, the Court considers the “forest for the trees” in terms of the total award of attorney’s fees, which $112,500. That amount is reasonable for competent counsel in Los Angeles to handle an elder abuse case involving allegations of fraud concerning real estate transfers, from start to finish, involving full discovery, motions practice, trial, and post-trial proceedings. Indeed, litigation is expensive, especially when a trial is involved.

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

The Court grants Plaintiffs’ motion for attorney’s fees and costs. The Court orders the Estate of Troud Stroud Dakarmenjian, by and through its personal representative, Sara Renyer Dakarmen, to pay a total of $124,959.95 to Plaintiffs comprised of: (1) $12,459.95 in costs, (2) $108,000 in attorney’s fees for Mr. Brown’s services, and (3) $4,500 in attorney’s fees for Mr. Alpert’s services. Defendant shall pay this amount within sixty (60) days. Plaintiffs shall provide notice and file proof of such with the Court.

Case Number: BC664277    Hearing Date: October 09, 2020    Dept: 39

[TENTATIVE] RULING:

The court CONTINUES the hearing on the subject motion and authorizes Plaintiffs to file a 10-page supplemental brief and supporting evidence. Defendant Sara Dakarmen is authorized to file a 10-page supplemental opposition, and Plaintiffs may file a 5-page supplemental reply. These briefs are to be filed and served pursuant to the deadlines set forth in Code of Civil Procedure section 1005 from the continued hearing date. The court also ORDERS the parties to meet and confer to determine if they can limit the scope of items in dispute based on the court’s guidance herein.

In their supplemental papers, Plaintiffs are to identify with specificity the items in the billing records that were incurred on issues common to their elder abuse claim against Sara Dakarmen, in her capacity as personal representative of Troud’s estate. They may present this evidence through a spreadsheet that lists or summarizes billing entries or by clearly marking the relevant entries on the billing records.

Plaintiffs to give notice.

Background

This is a family dispute and according to trial testimony, all of the current and former parties, living and deceased, are known to each other. Because of the family relationships, many parties share the same last name. There are, for instance, three men who could be referred to as “Mr. Dakarmenjian”: father Kivork, son Troud (Todd), and son Avedis (Shawn). Accordingly, the court will refer to all parties by their first names for ease of identification.

On or about September 8, 2006, Kivork Dakarmenjian and Elizabette Dakarmenjian, the original plaintiffs in this action, established a revocable living trust, referred to as the Kivork Dakarmenjian and Elizabette Dakarmenjian Living Trust, Dated September 8, 2006 (the “2006 Trust”). Kivork and Elizabette transferred their real estate holdings into the 2006 Trust upon its establishment. These properties included their residence at 18901 Salt Lake Place, Northridge, California 91326 (the “Salt Lake Property”) and their commercial/industrial property at 9797 Glenoaks Boulevard, Sun Valley, California 91352 (the “Glenoaks Property”) (collectively the “Subject Properties”). Deeds transferring title of the Subject Properties to the 2006 Trust were recorded on December 27, 2007.

Troud Dakarmenjian is the late son of Kivork and Elizabette. Troud married his wife, defendant and cross-complainant Sara Renyer Dakarmen in 2002. The two ran an auto dismantling business, specializing in Porsche parts, that was owned by IPD, Inc., dba Los Angeles Dismantler. Troud had been convicted of receiving stolen property and possessing a machine gun and explosives, and was on felony probation. On May 18, 2017, Troud and Sara were arrested on suspicion of running a “chop shop.” Their four minor children, ages 5 to 14, were taken into protective custody and lived, for a while, with their grandparents, plaintiffs Kivork and Elizabette. While in jail, Troud hanged himself and ultimately died on May 25, 2017. No criminal charges were brought against Sara after Troud’s death.

The court received evidence at trial that, shortly after the arrest of Troud and Sara, Kivork and Elizabette discovered that the Salt Lake Property and the Glenoaks Property had been transferred into Troud’s name through a series of forged deeds. These deeds were admitted at trial (by stipulation) as exhibits 5, 6, 7, and 8, and are as follows:

  1. Grant Deed recorded March 3, 2017, purportedly executed by Kivork and Elizabette on February 20, 2017, transferring the Glenoaks Property out of the 2006 Trust and into their names as husband and wife as joint tenants. Trial Exhibit 6.

  2. Grant Deed recorded March 3, 2017, purportedly executed by Kivork and Elizabette on February 20, 2017, transferring the Glenoaks Property out of their names as joint tenants, and to Troud, a married man, as community property. Trial Exhibit 8.

  3. Grand Deed recorded March 3, 2017, purportedly executed by Kivork and Elizabette on February 20, 2017, transferring the Salt Lake Property out of the 2006 Trust and into their names as husband and wife as joint tenants. Trial Exhibit 5.

  4. Grant Deed recorded March 3, 2017, purportedly executed by Kivork and Elizabette on February 20, 2017, transferring the Salt Lake Property out of their names as joint tenants, and to Troud, a married man, as community property. Trial Exhibit 7.

There was also a Deed of Trust recorded March 31, 2017, purportedly executed by Kivork and Elizabette on March 8, 2017, encumbering real property owned by plaintiffs located at 9813 Glenoaks Boulevard in Sun Valley, California, in the amount of $200,000. This had formed the bases of the third cause of action and the cross-claims by defendant Collateralized Investments Acquisitions, LLC (“CIA”), which was resolved prior to trial.

Kivork and Elizabette filed this lawsuit on January 8, 2017, seeking to, among other things, cancel the aforementioned four grant deeds and quiet title to the properties. Sara claimed ownership of these properties by virtue of her marriage to Troud.

The original named plaintiffs were Kivork and Elizabette, individually and as trustees of the 2006 Trust. The defendants included Plaintiffs’ son, Avedis Dakarmenjian, their daughter-in-law, Sara Renyer Dakarmen, in her individual capacity and as personal representative of the Estate of Troud Stroud Dakarmenjian, and CIT. Defendant Avedis had default entered against him during the course of the litigation. Other defendants, including notary Claudia Molina (“Molina”), who participated in the fraudulent deed transfer, have settled.

On November 13, 2017, Troud’s widow, Sara Dakarmen, filed her cross-complaint for damages, rescission, and restitution against “Elizabeth” [sic] Dakarmenjian, an individual and as trustee of the Kivork Dakarmenjian and Elizabette Dakarmenjian Living Trust; and Kivork Dakarmenjian. Sara’s cross-complaint contained a single cause of action for breach of contract and sought damages and restitution for all sums allegedly paid by Kivork using marital funds, pursuant to an alleged oral agreement between Troud and his parents, for the properties that are the subject of the complaint. Sara’s cross-complaint alleged that, pursuant to this oral agreement, the Salt Lake and Glenoaks properties were community property.

While this action was pending, on or about January 12, 2018, Kivork and Elizabette established another revocable trust, referred to as the Kivork Dakarmenjian Living Trust Dated January 12, 2018 (the “2018 Trust”). As with the 2006 Trust, Kivork and Elizabette were the original trustors and trustees. Upon establishment of the 2018 Trust, they each assigned their interest in the within action to themselves as trustees thereof.

Plaintiff Kivork Dakarmenjian died on May 11, 2018, at the age of 86. Plaintiff Elizabette Dakarmenjian died on November 11, 2018, at the age of 75. Therefore, both original plaintiffs had died by the time of the trial. Their two adult daughters, Ani Kemkemian and Sevan Weir, in their capacities as trustees of their parents’ living trusts, are the successor plaintiffs and the successor co-trustees of the 2006 Trust and the 2018 Trust. The parties stipulated that Ani and Sevan would be substituted in as plaintiffs and as cross-defendants for Kivork and Elizabette. There was no dispute as to the proper plaintiffs or cross-defendants in this action.

The complaint was amended subsequent to the deaths of the original plaintiffs, and the operative complaint became the Second Amended Verified Complaint (“SAC”), filed January 8, 2018. Because some defendants settled or were dismissed, the remaining four causes of action at trial were for: (1) quiet title and (2) cancellation of forged deeds against Sara, individually and in her capacity as the administrator of Troud’s estate; and for: (3) fraud and (4) elder abuse against Sara in her capacity as the administrator of Troud’s estate.

The bench trial on the action and cross-action was tried before the Honorable Elizabeth R. Feffer on November 6, 7, 12, 13, and 15, 2019 and January 6, 2020. Oral and documentary evidence was introduced on behalf of the parties. At the conclusion of the evidence on January 6, 2020, the court issued a briefing schedule for written argument in lieu of oral closing argument. The court took the matter under submission on March 4, 2020 after the briefs were received. The court issued its final Statement of Decision After Court Trial on April 22, 2020 (the “Statement of Decision”).

In the Statement of Decision, the court found in Plaintiffs’ favor on the first and second causes of action for quiet title and cancellation of forged deeds against Defendants Sara Dakarmen, individually and in her capacity as the administrator of Troud’s estate. Accordingly, the court invalidated the four deeds identified above and quieted title to the Glenoaks and Salt Lake Properties in Plaintiffs’ names as successor trustees of the 2006 Trust. The court further held that Plaintiffs met their burden on the fourth cause of action for fraud and the sixth cause of action for elder abuse against Troud’s estate, with regard to the forged deeds for the Salt Lake and Glenoaks properties. Finally, the court found in favor of cross-defendants against cross-complainant Sara Dakarmen on the cross-complaint, finding that the cross-complaint was legally and factually frivolous. The court entered Judgment against Defendants on April 22, 2020.

In her opposition brief, Defendant Sara attempts to relitigate the facts of this case and argues that the evidence presented at trial was suspect and does not support the court’s Judgment. Opp. 5-7. The subject attorney’s fees motion is neither the appropriate time nor means for Defendant to relitigate the facts of this action. The court, therefore, will disregard Defendant’s arguments challenging the factual findings of this court in its Statement of Decision.

Plaintiffs now move for attorney’s fees against defendant Sara Dakarmen in her capacity as personal representative of Troud’s estate. Defendant Sara Dakarmen opposes the motion.

Discussion

I. Timeliness of Motion

California Rules of Court, rule 3.1702(b)(1) provides, in relevant part, that a notice of motion to claim attorney’s fees for services up to and including the rendition of judgment must be filed and served within the time for filing a notice of appeal under rules 8.104 and 8.108. The deadline for filing a motion for attorney’s fees is mandatory. Community Youth Athletic Center v. City of National City, 220 Cal. App. 4th 1385, 1444 (2013).

Under rule 8.104(a)(1), a notice of appeal must be filed on or before the earliest of:

(A) 60 days after the superior court clerk serves on the party filing the notice of appeal a document entitled “Notice of Entry” of judgment or a filed-endorsed copy of the judgment, showing the date either was served;

(B) 60 days after the party filing the notice of appeal serves or is served by a party with a document entitled “Notice of Entry” of judgment or a filed-endorsed copy of the judgment, accompanied by proof of service; or

(C) 180 days after entry of judgment.

Cal. R. Ct. 8.104(a)(1).

The court served a file-endorsed copy of the judgment and a certificate of mailing for the judgment on April 22, 2020. Plaintiffs filed the subject motion on June 22, 2020, which was 60 after the date the court served the parties with file-endorsed copies of the judgment. This motion, therefore, is timely. See Cal. R. Ct. 3.1702(b)(1), 8.104(a)(1)(A).

II. Analysis

A. Legal Standard

“The Legislature enacted the Elder Abuse Act ‘to protect elders by providing enhanced remedies which encourage private, civil enforcement of laws against elder abuse and neglect.’ [Citation.] These remedies include reasonable attorney fees and costs. (§§ 15657, subd. (a), 15657.5, subd. (a).) The Elder Abuse Act defines ‘abuse’ as ‘[p]hysical abuse, neglect, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering,’ ‘deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering,’ or ‘[f]inancial abuse, as defined in Section 15610.30.’ (§ 15610.07, subd. (a).)” Arace v. Medico Inv., LLC, 48 Cal. App. 5th 977, 981-82 (2020).

Financial abuse occurs when a person or entity “[t]akes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud” or “assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud.” Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.30(a)(1), (2). “When a plaintiff proves ‘by a preponderance of the evidence that a defendant is liable for financial abuse, as defined in Section 15610.30, in addition to compensatory damages and all other remedies otherwise provided by law, the court shall award to the plaintiff reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.’” Arace, 48 Cal. App. 5th at 982 (quoting Welf. & Inst. Code § 15657.5(a)) (emphasis in Arace).

B. Analysis

Plaintiffs request $152,672.50 in attorney’s fees and $12,459.95 in costs. Mot. 4. Plaintiffs argue these amounts reflect the fees and costs incurred for Plaintiffs to prosecute and try their claims in this action and to defend against Defendant/Cross-Complainant Sara Dakarmen’s cross-complaint. Id.

Defendant Sara Dakarmen contends the motion is defective and improper in that Plaintiffs seek recovery of all attorney’s fees incurred for the entirety of the litigation without any segregation or apportionment as to the fees that were reasonably incurred on the elder abuse claim. Opp. 2. Defendant points out that Plaintiffs asserted claims against other defendants, including CIA and Molina, and that the fees incurred for those portions of the action cannot properly be sought against her. Opp. 2-3.

Plaintiffs respond they are entitled to all attorney’s fees and costs incurred in this action because all causes of action and cross-claims were factually grounded in and the result of Troud’s fraudulent misappropriation of his parents’ properties and elder abuse. Reply 4.

“When a cause of action for which attorney fees are provided by statute is joined with other causes of action for which attorney fees are not permitted, the prevailing party may recover only on the statutory cause of action. However, the joinder of causes of action should not dilute the right to attorney fees. Such fees need not be apportioned when incurred for representation of an issue common to both a cause of action for which fees are permitted and one for which they are not. All expenses incurred on the common issues qualify for an award.” Akins v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co., 79 Cal. App. 4th 1127, 1133 (2000). “When the liability issues are so interrelated that it would have been impossible to separate them into claims for which attorney fees are properly awarded and claims for which they are not, then allocation is not required.” Id.

1. The Pleadings

Plaintiffs Kivork and Elizabette filed the original Verified Complaint on June 8, 2017, alleging six causes of action for (1) quiet title, (2) cancellation of deed, (3) conversion, (4) fraud – concealment, (5) misconduct of notary public, and (6) unfair business practices in violation of Business and Professions Code § 17200, et seq. (the Unfair Competition Law, “UCL”). Plaintiffs asserted the first and second causes of action against the representative of Troud’s estate and Sara, the third and fourth causes of action against all defendants, and the fifth and sixth causes of action against Molina. Plaintiffs filed the Verified First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) on October 4, 2017, asserting the same six causes of action as in the Complaint and adding a cause of action for (7) elder abuse against Molina and Sara.

Plaintiffs filed the SAC on January 8, 2020, asserting six causes of action for (1) declaratory relief and quiet title against all defendants, (2) cancellation of forged deeds against all defendants, (3) cancellation of deed of trust against CIA, (4) fraud against Molina and Troud’s estate, (5) intentional misconduct or neglect by a notary public against Molina, and (6) elder abuse against Molina, the representative of Troud’s estate, and Avedis.

As the court discussed in its Statement of Decision, Defendant Sara filed a cross-complaint on November 13, 2017, alleging she was entitled to keep the Salt Lake and Glenoaks Properties, by virtue of Sara’s marriage to Troud, and that she was personally entitled to reimbursement of funds paid by Troud to his parents during Troud’s lifetime. 4/22/20 State. Dec. 9. This cross-complaint asserted a single cause of action for breach of contract.

Defendant CIA filed its cross-complaint on April 10, 2018, alleging that Kivork and Elizabette obtained a loan from Troud that was secured by a deed of trust owned by CIA. CIA Cross-Compl. ¶¶ 16-18. This cross-complaint asserted: (A) six causes of action against Kivork and Elizabette for (1) common counts, (2) breach of contract, (3) intentional misrepresentation, (4) negligent misrepresentation, (5) foreclosure, and (6) unjust enrichment; (B) two causes of action against Sara as the representative of the Troud estate for (1) negligence and (2) breach of fiduciary duty; and (C) one cause of action against Avedis for fraud.

2. Whether These Claims Involved Issues Common to Plaintiffs’ Elder Abuse Claim Against Sara, in Her Role as the Representative of the Troud Estate

Plaintiffs argue all of the claims and defenses among the parties arose from issues common to their elder abuse claim against Sara, in her role as the representative of the Troud estate. Reply 4-8. Defendant contends Plaintiffs’ motion fails because it does not segregate the costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in connection with the elder abuse claim against Troud’s estate from nonrecoverable costs and fees and instead attempts to impose all attorney’s fees on Defendant. Opp. 4. The court agrees with Defendant that Plaintiffs are not entitled to recover all attorney’s fees and costs incurred in this action from Troud’s estate.

Any attorney’s fees and costs Plaintiffs incurred in connection with issues common to their elder abuse claim against the representative of the Troud estate are recoverable in their entirety. See Akins, 79 Cal. App. 4th at 1133. This would include attorney’s fees incurred in litigating and proving that Troud obtained the Subject Properties through forged deeds and fraud, as these issues and Plaintiffs’ evidence of fraud were at the heart of Plaintiffs’ elder abuse claim. See 4/22/20 State. Dec. 8-9. The court will address specific categories of items below to provide the parties with guidance as to the categories of claimed fees that are or are not recoverable.

First, Defendant argues the attorney’s fees incurred before Plaintiffs asserted an elder abuse claim in the FAC and all legal services rendered by the Alpert Law Group are not recoverable. Opp. 7-8. Sara contends that the invoices confirm the absence of any legal services in connection with the elder abuse claim. Opp. 8. The court disagrees in-part.

Certain of the entries billed by the Alpert Law Group, such as those relating to reviewing or analyzing the relevant title documents and deeds of trust, involve common issues as the basis of Plaintiffs’ elder abuse claim against Troud’s estate. See Brown Decl. Ex. B at 1. Plaintiffs are entitled to recover fees incurred for those services. See Akins, 79 Cal. App. 4th at 1133. However, services incurred in opposing defendant Molina’s demurrer, for example, do not arise from common issues as that demurrer did not challenge the sufficiency of Plaintiff’s claims as to Troud’s estate. See Brown Decl. Ex. B at 5. Had the court sustained Molina’s demurrer, it would have had no effect on the validity of Plaintiffs’ claims against Troud’s estate. Consequently, these fees are not recoverable.

Defendant additionally argues Plaintiffs improperly seek to recover fees for legal services rendered as to unrelated guardianship and probate matters. Opp. 8. However, Ani Kemkemian’s declaration makes clear Plaintiffs only request attorney’s fees for the items listed in the spreadsheet that constitutes the first five pages of Exhibit B, and not for all of the entries listed in the billing records. Ani Kemkemian Decl. ¶ 5, Ex. B at 1-5. Many of the items Defendant challenges do not fall within the scope of the claimed fees and are not at issue in the subject motion. Cf. Opp. 8 with Ani Kemkemian Decl. Ex. B at 1-5.

Second, the parties dispute whether Plaintiffs are entitled to recover all attorney’s fees incurred against Molina. Plaintiffs’ claims against Molina were based on Molina’s conduct in connection with the notarization of the four fraudulent deeds. The alleged conduct that formed the basis of these claims arose from and were directly related to the transactions and the four deeds at the heart of Plaintiffs’ elder abuse claim. Accordingly, any services Plaintiffs’ attorneys performed in obtaining evidence of or litigating these claims need not be apportioned as long as the services were also related to the litigation of the elder abuse claim against the representative of Troud’s estate. See Akins, 79 Cal. App. 4th at 1133.

Services that were incurred solely in connection with claims against Molina for her personal conduct, however, would not have involved a common issue with the claims against Troud’s estate and would not be recoverable. The fact that Plaintiffs’ claims against Molina involved the same nexus of facts as Plaintiffs’ elder abuse claim does not demonstrate that all of the rendered services were intertwined with or advanced Plaintiffs’ claims against Troud’s estate. For example, attorney’s fees that were incurred in connection negotiating the settlement with Molina would not have aided Plaintiffs in their prosecution of the elder abuse claim and would not be inextricably intertwined with recoverable fees. Similarly, as discussed above, attorney’s fees that were incurred in opposing Molina’s demurrer are not recoverable as the success or failure of this demurrer did not have any direct relationship with the sufficiency of Plaintiffs’ elder abuse claim against Troud’s estate. Accordingly, fees and costs related to such claims would need to be apportioned.

Third, the parties dispute whether Plaintiffs are entitled to recover all attorney’s fees they incurred against CIA. CIA’s first through fourth causes of action in their cross-complaint and Plaintiffs’ third cause of action against CIA in the SAC concerned a deed of trust securing an alleged loan from CIA to Kivork and Elizabette. CIA Cross-Compl. ¶¶ 18-23, 31-56 SAC ¶¶ 14(e), 17, 27. Plaintiffs settled these claims with CIA prior to trial and the court did not make any determinations at trial regarding the validity of this deed of trust or CIA’s claim. See 4/22/20 State. Dec. 3.

As with fees incurred solely against Molina, attorney’s fees incurred solely in connection with CIA’s deed of trust and related claims do not involve issues common to Plaintiffs’ elder abuse claim against the representative of Troud’s estate. The court did not consider any evidence or arguments regarding CIA’s deed of trust at trial or in granting judgment on the sixth cause of action. Accordingly, attorney’s fees and costs that were solely incurred in connection with this issue, these claims, and Plaintiffs’ settlement with CIA are not recoverable and also need to be apportioned. See Akins, 79 Cal. App. 4th at 1133.

Fourth, the parties dispute whether Plaintiffs are entitled to recover all attorney’s fees incurred in defending against Sara Dakarmen’s cross-complaint. Plaintiffs contend all of the claims and defenses surrounding Sara’s cross-complaint arose from Troud’s wrongful misappropriation of his parents’ properties. Reply 4. The court disagrees in-part.

As Plaintiffs admit, the judgment on the sixth cause of action for elder abuse was only against Sara Dakarmen in her capacity as the personal representative of Troud’s estate, and the court did not find any liability on her part in her individual capacity. Reply 1. The sole cause of action pleaded in Sara’s cross-complaint was for breach of contract on the basis that Kivork and Elizabette made an oral promise to Troud that Troud would take title to the properties. 4/22/20 State. Dec. 11. Sara alleged damages consisting solely of reimbursement of up to $400,000 for the “ownership, taxes, maintenance, upkeep, and other expenses” related to the Subject Properties, which had supposedly been paid with marital funds. Id. These arguments involved separate issues from the sixth cause of action, as they did not directly relate to the validity of the forged deeds or Troud’s fraud.

Similarly, Sara urged the court at trial to allow her to transform her cross-complaint into an action for reimbursement by IPD, Inc. 4/22/20 State. Dec. 11. This argument is wholly unrelated to conduct by Troud and any fees incurred solely in challenging this argument would not be recoverable.

While any fees that were incurred to litigate or try a common issue as to the elder abuse claim would be recoverable, such as any fees incurred to establish that Troud obtained the properties through forged deeds and fraud, fees that were incurred solely against Sara’s arguments and claims for individual relief would not. The fact the Subject Properties came into Troud’s possession because of the forged deeds is insufficient to demonstrate Sara’s cross-claims necessarily arose from the issues common to Plaintiffs’ elder abuse claim against Troud’s estate. As such, attorney’s fees and costs incurred in opposing Sara’s cross-claims regarding the existence of an oral agreement are not recoverable and must be apportioned.

C. Conclusion

In sum, the court agrees with Defendant Sara Dakarmen that Plaintiffs are not entitled to recover all of their requested attorney’s fees and costs from Sara in her role as the personal representative of Troud’s estate. Plaintiffs are entitled to recover attorney’s fees and costs incurred on issues common to their elder abuse claim against Troud’s estate, which includes the fees incurred in connection with demonstrating that Troud committed fraud and obtained the Subject Properties through forged deeds and the underlying fraud, quiet title, and cancellation of forged deeds claims against Troud’s estate. Plaintiffs are not entitled to recover attorney’s fees and costs that were incurred solely as to claims against and cross-claims by other defendants, including Molina, CIA, or Sara acting in her individual capacity.

The court, therefore, CONTINUES the hearing on the subject motion and authorizes Plaintiffs to file a 10-page supplemental brief and supporting evidence. Defendant Sara Dakarmen may file a 10-page supplemental opposition, and Plaintiffs may file an optional 5-page supplemental reply. These briefs are to be filed and served pursuant to the filing deadlines set forth in Code of Civil Procedure section 1005, calculated from the continued hearing date. The court also ORDERS the parties to meet and confer to determine if they can limit the scope of items in dispute based on the court’s guidance above.

In their supplemental papers, Plaintiffs are to identify with specificity the items in the billing records that were incurred for issues common to their elder abuse claim against Sara Dakarmen, in her capacity as personal representative of Troud’s estate. Plaintiffs may present this evidence through a spreadsheet that lists or summarizes billing entries, by clearly marking the relevant entries on the billing records, or by any other means that clearly identify the specific fees that they seek to recover.

related-case-search

Dig Deeper

Get Deeper Insights on Court Cases


Latest cases represented by Lawyer BROWN JOSEPH R.