This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 10/20/2020 at 03:47:06 (UTC).

BLUM COLLINS LLP VS ELI SASSON

Case Summary

On 05/16/2018 BLUM COLLINS LLP filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against ELI SASSON. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is TERESA A. BEAUDET. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****6218

  • Filing Date:

    05/16/2018

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Other Contract

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

TERESA A. BEAUDET

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs, Petitioners and Cross Defendants

BLUM COLLINS LLP

620 ARKELL DRIVE HOUSE LLC

8300 SOUTH VERMONT LP

HO CHIA HENG AKA GARY HO

AXTELL JACQUELINE ANN

BLUM STEVEN A.

Defendants, Respondents and Cross Plaintiffs

DOES 1-100

SASSON ELI

HO CHIA HENG AKA GARY HO

AXTELL JACQUELINE ANN

BLUM STEVEN A.

620 ARKELL DRIVE HOUSE LLC

8300 SOUTH VERMONT LP

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorneys

BLUM STEVEN A.

HO CHIA HENG A.

Defendant and Respondent Attorneys

FIELDS BRUCE A. ESQ.

FIELDS BRUCE ARIC ESQ.

Defendant and Cross Plaintiff Attorneys

FIELDS BRUCE ARIC ESQ.

HAROONIAN ALEXANDER

Plaintiff and Cross Defendant Attorney

HO CHIA HENG A.

 

Court Documents

Declaration - DECLARATION DECLARATION OF KATIA DAMIAO RE RETENTION OF NEW COUNSEL

9/8/2020: Declaration - DECLARATION DECLARATION OF KATIA DAMIAO RE RETENTION OF NEW COUNSEL

Notice of Limited Scope Representation

7/7/2020: Notice of Limited Scope Representation

Order - ORDER PROPOSED

7/7/2020: Order - ORDER PROPOSED

Opposition - OPPOSITION OPPOSITION TO CROSS-COMPLAINANT ELI SASSONS EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE HEARINGS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE; DECLARATION OF GARY HO

7/7/2020: Opposition - OPPOSITION OPPOSITION TO CROSS-COMPLAINANT ELI SASSONS EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE HEARINGS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE; DECLARATION OF GARY HO

Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

7/8/2020: Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

Order Granting Attorney's Motion to Be Relieved as Counsel-Civil - ORDER GRANTING ATTORNEY'S MOTION TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL-CIVIL AS TO ELI SASSON

1/23/2020: Order Granting Attorney's Motion to Be Relieved as Counsel-Civil - ORDER GRANTING ATTORNEY'S MOTION TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL-CIVIL AS TO ELI SASSON

Motion for Summary Judgment

1/15/2020: Motion for Summary Judgment

Reply - REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES SET 2 AND PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS RESPONSIVE TO REQUESTS FOR PRODUCTION (SET 3); DECLARATIONS OF ROGER MUNOZ AND BR

1/8/2020: Reply - REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES SET 2 AND PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS RESPONSIVE TO REQUESTS FOR PRODUCTION (SET 3); DECLARATIONS OF ROGER MUNOZ AND BR

Opposition - OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER DISCOVERY RESPONSES; DECLARATION OF GARY HO

1/2/2020: Opposition - OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER DISCOVERY RESPONSES; DECLARATION OF GARY HO

Declaration in Support of Attorney's Motion to Be Relieved as Counsel-Civil

12/26/2019: Declaration in Support of Attorney's Motion to Be Relieved as Counsel-Civil

Informal Discovery Conference

7/31/2019: Informal Discovery Conference

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON DEMURRER - WITHOUT MOTION TO STRIKE)

7/15/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON DEMURRER - WITHOUT MOTION TO STRIKE)

Motion re: - Motion re: LEAVE TO FILE A CROSS- COMPLAINT AND TO ADD CROSS-COMPLAINANTS AND CROSSDEFENDANTS AS NECESSARY PARTIES; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS & AUTHORITIES AND DECLARATION OF BRUCE A. FIELDS I

1/25/2019: Motion re: - Motion re: LEAVE TO FILE A CROSS- COMPLAINT AND TO ADD CROSS-COMPLAINANTS AND CROSSDEFENDANTS AS NECESSARY PARTIES; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS & AUTHORITIES AND DECLARATION OF BRUCE A. FIELDS I

Notice of Posting of Jury Fees

11/13/2018: Notice of Posting of Jury Fees

CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE ORDER

10/1/2018: CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE ORDER

Declaration - Declaration of Gary Ho

12/4/2018: Declaration - Declaration of Gary Ho

ANSWER OF DEFENDANT ELI SASSON TO FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

9/27/2018: ANSWER OF DEFENDANT ELI SASSON TO FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

NOTICE RE: CONTINUANCE OF HEARING

8/29/2018: NOTICE RE: CONTINUANCE OF HEARING

97 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 11/06/2020
  • Hearing11/06/2020 at 10:00 AM in Department 50 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment

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  • 11/06/2020
  • Hearing11/06/2020 at 10:00 AM in Department 50 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Trial Setting Conference

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  • 10/09/2020
  • Docketat 4:00 PM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Non-Appearance Case Review (lodging of court reporter's transcript) - Not Held - Advanced and Vacated

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  • 10/09/2020
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Non-Appearance Case Review lodging of court reporter's transc...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 09/22/2020
  • Docketat 10:00 AM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Trial Setting Conference - Held - Continued

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  • 09/22/2020
  • Docketat 10:00 AM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment - Held - Continued

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  • 09/22/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Trial Setting Conference - Not Held - Continued - Court's Motion

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  • 09/22/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment - Not Held - Continued - Court's Motion

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  • 09/22/2020
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment; Trial Setting Conference)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 09/22/2020
  • DocketOrder Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

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150 More Docket Entries
  • 08/29/2018
  • DocketNOTICE RE: CONTINUANCE OF HEARING

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  • 08/16/2018
  • DocketStipulation; Filed by Eli Sasson (Defendant)

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  • 08/16/2018
  • DocketSTIPULATION TO EXTEND DEADLINE TO RESPOND TO COMPLAINT FOR (15) DAYS PER CALIFORNIA RULE OF COURT RULE 3.110(D)

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  • 07/12/2018
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 07/12/2018
  • DocketProof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by Blum Collins, LLP (Plaintiff)

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  • 06/05/2018
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 06/05/2018
  • DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

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  • 05/16/2018
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Blum Collins, LLP (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/16/2018
  • DocketCOMPLAINT-CONTRACT

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  • 05/16/2018
  • DocketSUMMONS

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC706218    Hearing Date: September 22, 2020    Dept: 50

 

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 50

Background

Plaintiff Blum Collins LLP (“Blum Collins”) filed this action on May 16, 2018, against Defendant Eli Sasson (“Sasson”) for breach of contract and common counts. Blum Collins, a law firm, alleges that Sasson, its prior client, failed to pay for legal services rendered. The operative First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) was filed on August 29, 2018. On March 6, 2019, Sasson, 8300 South Vermont, LP, and 620 Arkell Drive House, LLC (collectively, “Cross-Complainants”) filed a Cross-Complaint against Blum Collins, Steven A. Blum (“Blum”), Chia Heng Ho aka Gary Ho (“Ho”), and Jacqueline Ann Axtell (“Axtell”) (collectively, “Cross-Defendants”). Cross-Complainants assert causes of action for (1) breach of contract, (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (3) breach of fiduciary duty, and (4) money had and received.

Cross-Defendants now move for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication of the Cross-Complaint. Cross-Complainant oppose.

Evidence

The Court grants Cross-Complainants’ request for judicial notice as to Exhibits A through Exhibits G.

The Court overrules Cross-Defendants’ objection to the Declaration of Grant Stiefel.

The Court also notes that Cross-Complainants contend in their opposition that they have been prevented from completing discovery, but because Cross-Complainants have not otherwise complied with the requirements of Code of Civil Procedure section 437c, subdivision (h), the Court declines to deny the motion, order a continuance, or make any other order on the basis of insufficient discovery.

Legal Standard

“[A] motion for summary judgment shall be granted if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” ((Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (c).) The moving party bears the initial burden of production to make a prima facie showing that there are no triable issues of material fact. ((Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 850.) If the moving party carries this burden, the burden shifts to the opposing party to make a prima facie showing that a triable issue of material fact exists. ((Ibid. .) Courts “liberally construe the evidence in support of the party opposing summary judgment and resolve doubts concerning the evidence in favor of that party.” ((Dore v. Arnold Worldwide, Inc. (2006) 39 Cal.4th 384, 389.)

When a defendant seeks summary judgment, he/she must show either (1) that one or more elements of the cause of action cannot be established; or (2) that there is a complete defense to that cause of action. ((Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (p)(2).)

Discussion

In the Cross-Complaint, Cross-Complainants allege that they retained Blum Collins in March 2016 to represent them in various lawsuits, each of which involved issues pertaining to real property owned by Cross-Complainants. (Cross-Compl., ¶ 12.) Cross-Defendants provided legal services to Cross-Complainants through January 2018. (Cross-Compl., ¶ 12.) Pursuant to the retention arrangement (although there was no written retainer agreement), Blum was to bill at the hourly rate of $540. No billable hourly rates were authorized for Ho or Axtell. (Cross-Compl., ¶ 13.) Cross-Complainants paid Cross-Defendants more than $138,000 for legal services. (Cross-Compl., ¶ 14.) Cross-Complainants allege that Cross-Defendants engaged in unconscionable billing tactics such as block billing, double billing, billing excessive time, and billing the time of two attorneys when only one was necessary. (Cross-Compl., ¶ 15.)

Cross-Defendants contend that Cross-Complainants cannot recover on their contract-based claims because Blum Collins performed its contractual obligations and Cross-Complainants accepted the work when they paid for it under the parties’ hourly fee agreement. ((Civ. Code, § 1473 [“Full performance of an obligation, by the party whose duty it is to perform it, or by any other person on his behalf, and with his assent, if accepted by the creditor, extinguishes it.”].) The Court notes that this argument is entirely dependent on Cross-Defendants’ assertion that the Cross-Complaint is directed only to the money Cross-Complainants already paid to Blum Collins. (Mot., p. 6:15-16.) But other than a citation to paragraph 12 of the Declaration of Steven A. Blum, which is of little evidentiary value in this context, Cross-Defendants cite to nothing else to support this assertion. (Blum Decl., ¶ 12 [“Sasson cross-complained against our firm to recover the portion of the fees he already paid our firm, after he and his legal team had reviewed and paid those bills.” (emphasis in original)].) Indeed, Cross-Complainants contend in their opposition that their Cross-Complaint was filed to both dispute the amounts claimed in Blum Collins’s Complaint as well as to recover unreasonably overcharged fees. Moreover, the allegations of the Cross-Complaint do not support a finding that Cross-Complainants are seeking solely to recover already-paid fees. In support of the first cause of action for breach of contract, Cross-Complainants allege that Cross-Defendants breached their implied retention agreement by billing for unnecessary work, billing for work that was not performed, double billing for work performed, failing to itemize services performed, and excessively overbilling for work performed. (Cross-Compl., ¶ 23.) Cross-Complainants further allege that “[a]s a proximate cause of Cross-Defendants’ breaches of the agreement, Cross-Complainants suffered damages in an amount to be proven at trial.” (Cross-Compl., ¶ 24.) The second cause of action for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing is based on the same allegations and also alleges that Cross-Complainants suffered “damages according to proof.” (Cross-Compl., ¶ 29.) These allegations suggest that Cross-Complainants are suing for “damages,” which conceivably encompasses more than just fees already paid. Therefore, the Court finds that Cross-Defendants have failed to meet their initial burden of demonstrating that the contract causes of action are without merit.

Next, Cross-Defendants contend that the cause of action for money had and received is without merit because Cross-Complainants cannot show that Cross-Defendants received money for Cross-Complainants’ benefit. “A cause of action for money had and received is stated if it is alleged [that] the defendant is indebted to the plaintiff in a certain sum for money had and received by the defendant for the use of the plaintiff.” (Avidor v. Sutter’s Place, Inc. (2013) 212 Cal.App.4th 1439, 1454 [internal quotations omitted].) “The claim is viable wherever one person has received money which belongs to another, and which in equity and good conscience should be paid over to the latter.” (Ibid. [internal quotations omitted].) Cross-Defendants argue that the money received by Blum Collins was for legal services performed by Blum Collins and its attorneys, and that the bills for these services were approved by Sasson and Sasson’s main independent legal advisor, Nathan Misraje. (Blum Decl., ¶¶ 4-6.) Therefore, Cross-Defendants contend that any money received by Blum Collins was for the benefit of Blum Collins, and not for the benefit of Cross-Complainants. But Cross-Complainants expressly allege that Cross-Defendants received money which was intended to be used for Cross-Complainants’ benefit. (Cross-Compl., ¶ 39.) In other words, Cross-Complainants paid money to Blum Collins so that Blum Collins could provide legal services for Cross-Complainants’ benefit. The fact that bills were approved by Sasson and Mr. Misraje does not change the fact that the money was for the benefit of Cross-Complainants as the clients. Therefore, the Court finds that Cross-Defendants have failed to meet their initial burden of showing that the cause of action for money had and received is without merit.

In support of the third cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty, Cross-Complainants allege that Cross-Defendants breached their fiduciary duties as attorneys by failing to provide a written agreement specifying the terms of the retention, failing to disclose that they did not carry professional liability insurance, failing to acquire consent for Ho and Axtell billing at an hourly rate of $540, failing to bill honestly and fairly, failing to charge fair, reasonable, and conscionable fees, and failing the put the interests of their clients above their own, resulting in a waste of attorneys’ fees, expenses, and costs. (Cross-Compl., ¶ 33.) For these breaches, Cross-Complainants seek “monetary damages and disgorgement of fees for improper charges arising out of Cross-Defendants’ breaches.” (Cross-Compl., ¶ 35.)

Cross-Defendants argue that the claim for breach of fiduciary duty must fail because the evidence shows that they did work for their client, the client reviewed the bills with detailed time entries describing the work, and the client thereafter agreed to the bills as accurate descriptions of the work by making payment. (Blum Decl., ¶¶ 4-6, Ex. C; ¶ 11, Ex. D; ¶ 12, Ex. E.) Cross-Defendants argue that Cross-Complainants’ payment of the bills is “conclusive evidence” that Cross-Defendants did not place their own interests above the client’s interests. (Mot., p. 8: 19-20.) Cross-Defendants also argue that the payments by Cross-Complainants constituted a waiver because Cross-Complainants relinquished a known right via payment of the bills. But as noted by Cross-Complainants, the breach of fiduciary duty claim encompasses more than just unreasonable billing practices. Thus, Cross-Defendants’ failure to address the nonbilling breaches is fatal to its request for summary adjudication.

Lastly, Cross-Defendants contend that all of the causes of action must fail as to the individual defendants, Blum, Ho, and Axtell. Cross-Defendants argue that there is no evidence that any of the individual attorneys contracted separately with Cross-Complainants to perform legal services or that the individual attorneys were parties to the retention agreement. (Blum Decl., ¶ 4, Ex. B.) Instead, the individual attorneys are merely agents of Blum Collins, and thus are protected from liability by the agent’s immunity rule. ((Sackett v. Wyatt (1973) 32 Cal.App.3d 592, 597 [“Under California law it is settled that a personal judgment for damages for breach of contract may not be obtained against a known agent of a disclosed principal.”].) Cross-Defendants point to evidence that Sasson and his advisors met several times in person with the individual attorneys, and that they knew that the individual attorneys were working on behalf of Blum Collins. (Blum Decl., ¶¶ 8, 11; Cross-Defendants’ Undisputed Material Fact (“UMF”) 7[1].) Cross-Defendants also point out that Blum Collins sent all invoices for work performed by the individual attorneys, and that Cross-Complainants paid the invoices submitted by Blum Collins for the legal work performed by the individual attorneys. (Blum Decl., ¶¶ 6-7, Ex. C; ¶ 11, Ex. D.) Therefore, Cross-Defendants argue that the individual attorneys were known agents of the disclosed principal, Blum Collins.

Cross-Complainants do not dispute that they received Blum Collins invoices and paid those invoices, but they argue that the agent’s immunity rule only applies to contract claims and that an attorney’s independent legal duties to a client (governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct and Business and Professions Code section 6148) preempt any immunity. Cross-Complainants do not offer any binding authority in support of this assertion, arguing that Sackett involved a breach of contract claim and so cannot be expanded to include other theories of liability such as breach of fiduciary duty.[2] Cross-Complainants argue that attorneys have duties pursuant to the Business and Professions Code and the Rules of Professional Conduct. But even so, the agent’s immunity rule applies. ((See Everest Investors 8 v. Whitehall Real Estate Partnership Xi (2002) 100 Cal.App.4th 1102, 1104 [holding that a nonfiduciary agent is entitled to the benefit of the agent’s immunity rule on a claim for conspiracy to breach fiduciary duties absent allegation that the agent was acting for its own benefit].) Here, there are no allegations that the individual attorneys were acting for their own benefit (i.e., that they were being paid directly by Cross-Complainants) in performing legal services on behalf of Cross-Complainants. Instead, the evidence demonstrates that at all times, the contractual relationship was between Blum Collins the law firm and Cross-Complainants, and that the individual attorneys were agents of the firm while they were performing their legal work. Therefore, the Court finds that Cross-Defendants have met their burden of showing that the causes of action as to the individual attorneys have no merit and that Cross-Complainants have failed to raise a triable issue of fact thereto.

Conclusion

Based on the foregoing, the Court grants Cross-Defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to the individual Cross-Defendants Steven A. Blum, Chia Heng Ho aka Gary Ho, and Jacqueline Ann Axtell. The Court otherwise denies Cross-Defendants’ motion for summary judgment and Cross-Defendants’ alternative motion for summary adjudication.

The Court orders Cross-Defendants to file and serve proposed forms of judgment for the individual Cross-Defendants within 10 days of the date of this order.

Cross-Defendants are ordered to give notice of this Order.

DATED: September 22, 2020

________________________________

Hon. Teresa A. Beaudet

 

[1] The Court notes that although Cross-Complainants dispute UMF 7, Cross-Complainants’ evidence in response to UMF 7 does not reveal a substantive dispute.

[2] The Court notes that Cross-Complainants offer no explanation for why the agent’s immunity rule would not apply to a claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which is based on contract, or to a claim for money had and received, which is based on quasi-contract principles. In any event, the Court notes that there is ample case law applying the agent’s immunity rule to breach of implied covenant claims. (See, e.g., Gruenberg v. Aetna Insurance Co. (1973) 9 Cal.3d 566, 576 [holding that defendants who were not parties to an agreement cannot be subject to an implied duty of good faith and fair dealing and that agents cannot be held liable for conspiring with their own principals].)

Case Number: BC706218    Hearing Date: January 23, 2020    Dept: 50

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 50

blum collins, llp,

Plaintiff,

vs.

eli sasson, et al.,

Defendants.

Case No.:

BC 706218

Hearing Date:

January 23, 2020

Hearing Time:

8:30 a.m.

[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE:

(4) MOTIONS TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL

AND RELATED CROSS-ACTION

Bruce A. Fields (“Counsel”) moves to be relieved as counsel for Defendant and Cross-Complainant Eli Sasson (“Sasson”) and Cross-Complainants 620 Arkell Drive House LLC and 8300 South Vermont LP. The Court notes that there are two motions as to Sasson, but only one was necessary. Sasson opposes Counsel’s motions on the basis that discovery is not yet complete and will be closing on March 30. Sasson is concerned that he will not be able to find suitable replacement counsel on short notice. Sasson requests that trial be continued, presumably with a continuance of attendant pre-trial deadlines, so that he has sufficient time to find new counsel and to prepare for trial.

The Court finds that Counsel has complied with the relevant procedural requirements (CRC 3.1362) and has provided sufficient reason for withdrawal. The Court finds good cause to continue trial and will discuss that issue with the parties at the hearing.

Counsel is ordered to give notice of this order.

DATED: January 23, 2020 ________________________________

Hon. Teresa A. Beaudet

Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court

Case Number: BC706218    Hearing Date: January 22, 2020    Dept: 50

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 50

blum collins, llp,

Plaintiff,

vs.

eli sasson, et al.,

Defendants.

Case No.:

BC 706218

Hearing Date:

January 22, 2020

Hearing Time:

8:30 a.m.

[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE:

(2) MOTIONS TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL

AND RELATED CROSS-ACTION

Bruce A. Fields (“Counsel”) moves to be relieved as counsel for Defendant and Cross-Complainant Eli Sasson and Cross-Complainant 8300 South Vermont LP.

Counsel has complied with the relevant procedural requirements (CRC 3.1362) and has provided sufficient reason for withdrawal. But the Court notes that the proposed orders for both motions are incomplete; Items 8 and 9 are not completed. If Counsel provides a completed copy of both proposed orders at the hearing, the Court intends to grant both motions.

Counsel is ordered to give notice of this order.

DATED: January 22, 2020 ________________________________

Hon. Teresa A. Beaudet

Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court

Case Number: BC706218    Hearing Date: January 15, 2020    Dept: 50

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 50

blum collins, llp,

Plaintiff,

vs.

eli sasson, et al.,

Defendants.

Case No.:

BC 706218

Hearing Date:

January 15, 2020

Hearing Time:

8:30 a.m.

[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE:

DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES SET 2 AND PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS RESPONSIVE TO REQUESTS FOR PRODUCTION (SET 3); REQUEST FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS IN THE AMOUNT OF $6,691.65

AND RELATED CROSS-ACTION

Background

Plaintiff Blum Collins LLP (“Blum Collins”) filed this action on May 16, 2018, against Defendant Eli Sasson (“Sasson”) for breach of contract and common counts. Blum Collins, a law firm, alleges that Sasson, its prior client, failed to pay for legal services rendered. The operative First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) was filed on August 29, 2018. On March 6, 2019, Sasson, among others, filed a Cross-Complaint against Blum Collins, Steven A. Blum (“Blum”), Chia Heng Ho aka Gary Ho (“Ho”), and Jacqueline Ann Axtell (“Axtell”). Sasson asserts causes of action for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary duty, and money had and received.

On March 25, 2019, Sasson served Requests for Admissions, Set 1, Interrogatories, Set 2, and Requests for Production of Documents, Set 3 on Blum Collins. (Fields Decl., ¶ 3.) After Blum Collins served its responses, the parties met and conferred regarding Blum Collins’s responses, and ultimately, the parties participated in an Informal Discovery Conference (“IDC”). (Fields Decl., ¶¶ 5-6.) After the IDC, Blum Collins agreed to provide further responses, which responses were served on September 9, 2019. (Fields Decl., ¶¶ 6-7.)

Sasson now moves for an order compelling Blum Collins to serve further responses to Interrogatory No. 17.1 relative to Requests for Admission Nos. 18-32.[1] Blum Collins opposes.

Request for Judicial Notice

The Court grants Sasson’s request for judicial notice in its entirety.

Legal Standard

Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.300, subdivision (a) permits a propounding party to move for an order compelling a further response to an interrogatory if the propounding party deems that an answer is “evasive or incomplete” or that an objection is “without merit or too general.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.300(a).) Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.220 requires that each answer to an interrogatory must be as “complete and straightforward as the information reasonably available to the responding party permits.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.220(a).)

Discussion

Interrogatory No. 17.1 states: Is your request to each request for admission served with these interrogatories an unqualified admission? If not, for each response that is not an unqualified admission: (a) state the number of the request; (b) state all facts upon which you base your response; (c) state the names, ADDRESSES, and telephone numbers of all PERSONS who have knowledge of those facts; and (d) identify all DOCUMENTS and other tangible things that support your response and state the name, ADDRESS, and telephone number of the PERSON who has each DOCUMENT or thing.

Blum Collins denied Requests for Admission Nos. 18-32 and provided the same answer to subsection (b): “Responding Party did not know this for a fact.” Blum Collins also stated that there were no documents to identify in response to subsection (d).

Sasson contends that a further response is warranted because Blum Collins’s response is evasive. Request for Admission Nos. 18-21 and 25-26 are requests directed to Blum Collins’s knowledge of a certain fact (i.e., all of these Requests begin with “Admit that … YOU knew ….” Sasson argues that Blum Collins’s response that it “did not know this for a fact” is evasive because documents filed in the underlying cases demonstrate that Blum Collins did have knowledge of the facts set forth in these requests. It appears that Sasson is arguing that Blum Collins’s responses to these particular Requests cannot be proven, but that is a different inquiry from whether the responses are “evasive or incomplete.” The Court does not find that these particular responses are evasive or incomplete.

Request for Admission Nos. 22-24, 29, and 32 are directed to determinations or orders made by the courts in the underlying cases (e.g., “Admit that at the court hearing … the court determined …” or “Admit that the Court ruled in favor of … because ….”). Sasson contends that Blum Collins’s denial of these Requests and response that it “did not know this for a fact” are evasive because Blum Collins was present at the identified hearings. Again, the Court does not find that Blum Collins’s responses are evasive or incomplete. It is appropriate for Blum Collins to respond that it does not know “for a fact” what a court determined at a hearing. Whether or not Blum Collins can prove this “fact” is not before the Court on a motion to compel further discovery.

Request for Admission Nos. 27, 28, 30, and 31 are directed to Blum Collins’s conduct (e.g., “Admit that … YOU never requested ….”). Sasson contends that Blum Collins’s denial of these Requests and response that it “did not know this for a fact” are evasive because Blum Collins handled the underlying cases, and so it must have knowledge relating to its conduct of those cases. The Court is inclined to agree with Sasson with regard to these particular Requests. Since Blum Collins is denying that it “never requested” documents or “never sought” certain remedies or relief on behalf of Sasson in the underlying cases, Blum Collins’s response that it “did not know this for a fact” is non-responsive. Indeed, Blum Collins’s opposition suggests that the response to Request No. 28 could be further supplemented. Similarly, Blum Collins’s attempt to explain its responses relative to Request Nos. 27, 28, 30, and 31 shows that there exist more facts that explain Blum Collins’s denial of those Requests, and therefore, that they are incomplete or evasive.

Finally, with respect to subsection (d) (the document request), the Court does not find Blum Collins’s response to be evasive or incomplete.

Conclusion

Based on the foregoing, Sasson’s motion to compel further responses is granted in part and denied in part.

The Court orders Blum Collins to serve further responses to Interrogatory No. 17.1 with respect to Request for Admission Nos. 27, 28, 30, and 31 within 20 days of the date of service of this order.

The Court grants Sasson’s request for monetary sanctions in part. The Court finds that an award of $1,986.65 ($385 x 5 hours + $61.65 costs) is reasonable. Therefore, the Court orders Blum Collins to pay $1,986.65 in monetary sanctions to Sasson within 30 days of the date of service this order

Sasson is ordered to provide notice of this Order.

DATED: January 15, 2020 ________________________________

Hon. Teresa A. Beaudet

Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court


[1] The Court notes that it is not in receipt of courtesy copies of Sasson’s moving papers, including a 238-page declaration. Counsel is reminded that pursuant to the November 5, 2018 General Order re Mandatory Electronic Filing for Civil and the May 3, 2019 First Amended General Order, litigants are required to provide printed courtesy copies of all filings, including pleadings and motions including attachments such as declarations and exhibits) 26 pages or more and pleadings and motions that include points and authorities. Failure to provide courtesy copies in the future may result in motions being taken off calendar.