This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 05/30/2019 at 04:56:32 (UTC).

CALIFORNIA DECOR INC ET AL VS ABELINA MEDRANO ET AL

Case Summary

On 10/17/2017 CALIFORNIA DECOR INC filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against ABELINA MEDRANO. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is ELIZABETH ALLEN WHITE. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****9934

  • Filing Date:

    10/17/2017

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Other Contract

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

ELIZABETH ALLEN WHITE

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs

SPENCE ED

CALIFORNIA SALON

SALON CALIFORNIA

IMAGINERS

BRANDY SALON

CALIFORNIA DECOR INC. DBA SALON BRANDY

Defendants and Cross Plaintiffs

MEDRANO ABELINA

DUARTE MARIO

Cross Defendants and Plaintiffs

BOZEMAN NEYDA

CALIFORNIA DECOR INC. DBA SALON BRANDY

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorney

JACKSON LISA J.

Defendant Attorney

CROSS SHERRY C

Cross Plaintiff Attorney

OLIVO EDUARDO

Cross Defendant Attorney

VALLE JEFFREY BOYD

 

Court Documents

CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER

5/10/2018: CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER

Unknown

5/10/2018: Unknown

Minute Order

5/10/2018: Minute Order

NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

7/17/2018: NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION

7/17/2018: NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION

NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

7/17/2018: NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

7/17/2018: NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION

7/17/2018: NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION

NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

9/14/2018: NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

9/14/2018: NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

9/14/2018: NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION.

Notice

2/13/2019: Notice

Unknown

3/4/2019: Unknown

Unknown

3/4/2019: Unknown

Substitution of Attorney

3/18/2019: Substitution of Attorney

Association of Attorney

3/19/2019: Association of Attorney

Notice

3/25/2019: Notice

Motion to Be Relieved as Counsel

4/5/2019: Motion to Be Relieved as Counsel

45 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 05/06/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 48, Elizabeth Allen White, Presiding; Hearing on Ex Parte Application ( FOR ORDER TO CONTINUE TRIAL DATE AND RELATED DATES; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES; DECLARATION OF EDUARDO OLIVO IN SUPPORT THEREOF; (PROPOSED) ORDER) - Held - Motion Granted

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 05/06/2019
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Defendant/Cross-Complainant Abelina Medrano's Ex P...)); Filed by Clerk

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 05/06/2019
  • DocketOrder (Order); Filed by Abelina Medrano (Cross-Complainant)

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 05/06/2019
  • DocketEx Parte Application (for Order to Continue Trial Date and Related Dates); Filed by Abelina Medrano (Cross-Complainant)

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 05/01/2019
  • DocketSubstitution of Attorney; Filed by Abelina Medrano (Defendant)

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 04/30/2019
  • DocketNotice (of Entry of Order; Order Granting Attorney's Motion to Be Relieved as Counsel-Civil; Proof of Service); Filed by Abelina Medrano (Cross-Complainant)

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 04/29/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 48, Elizabeth Allen White, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to be Relieved as Counsel - Held - Motion Granted

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 04/29/2019
  • DocketOrder Granting Attorney's Motion to Be Relieved as Counsel-Civil; Filed by Michael C. Murphy, Esq. (Attorney)

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 04/29/2019
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Attorney Michael C. Murphy's Motion to be Relieved...)); Filed by Clerk

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 04/05/2019
  • DocketMotion to Be Relieved as Counsel; Filed by Michael C. Murphy, Esq. (Attorney)

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
86 More Docket Entries
  • 10/17/2017
  • DocketCIVIL DEPOSIT

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 10/17/2017
  • DocketReceipt; Filed by California Decor, Inc. (Plaintiff)

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 10/17/2017
  • DocketSUMMONS

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 10/17/2017
  • DocketOrder; Filed by California Decor, Inc. (Plaintiff)

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 10/17/2017
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Brandy Salon (Plaintiff); Salon California (Plaintiff); California Salon (Plaintiff) et al.

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 10/17/2017
  • DocketCOMPLAINT FOR: 1. BREACH OF LEASE AGREEMENT ;ETC

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 10/17/2017
  • DocketTEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 10/17/2017
  • DocketEx-Parte Application; Filed by California Decor, Inc. (Plaintiff)

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 10/17/2017
  • DocketDeclaration; Filed by California Decor, Inc. (Plaintiff)

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less
  • 10/17/2017
  • DocketEX PARTE APPLICATION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION; ETC

    [+] Read More [-] Read Less

Tentative Rulings

Case Number: ****9934    Hearing Date: June 4, 2021    Dept: 48

[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE: PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES

In October 2019, a bench trial was held on Plaintiff California Décor Inc.’s (“Cal Décor”) third cause of action for declaratory relief in the first amended complaint (“FAC”) and Cross-Complainant Abelina Medrano’s seventh and tenth causes of action for rescission and declaratory relief. Defendant Mario Duarte failed to appear, and the Court ordered his answer stricken and placed him in default.

On November 27, 2019, the Court issued a proposed statement of decision awarding judgment for Cal Décor on the FAC’s third cause of action and on the cross-complaint’s seventh and tenth causes of action. The Court determined that the December 8, 2016 lease between Cal Décor and James Lee Jenkins was valid and enforceable. The proposed statement of decision awarded Cal Décor its costs of suit.

On December 12, 2019, Cal Décor filed a request for clarification, requesting that the Court clarify that “costs of suit” includes reasonable attorney fees. On December 27, 2019, the Court issued a minute order “[clarifying] its statement of decision to reflect that Plaintiff and Cross-Defendant California Decor, Inc. is awarded its attorney’s fees to be determined on motion and its costs pursuant to a memorandum of costs.” On December 31, 2019, the Court issued its final statement of decision, which awarded Cal Décor “its attorney’s fees to be determined on motion and its costs pursuant to a memorandum of costs.”

The parties later settled their remaining disputes. On April 16, 2021, Cal Décor dismissed the FAC’s remaining causes of action for breach of lease agreement, conversion, and permanent injunctive relief. Cal Décor also dismissed Defendant Duarte. Medrano dismissed his cross-complaint’s remaining causes of action for elder abuse, conversion, breach of oral contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional interference with contractual relationship, aiding and abetting, and accounting.

On April 28, 2021, the Court entered judgment in favor of Cal Décor and against Medrano. The judgment deemed Cal Décor a prevailing party under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032, subdivision (a)(4), and award it costs. The judgment also provided for an award of attorney fees following a noticed motion pursuant to Civil Code section 1717.

On May 12, 2021, Cal Décor filed this motion for attorney fees in the amount of $600,795.50. Cal Décor’s reply seeks an additional $12,840.00 in fees incurred in connection with the motion. Cal Décor also filed a memorandum of costs, seeking $21.105.22. Medrano filed an opposition to the motion for attorney fees, but he did not file a motion to tax costs.

A. Availability of Attorney Fees

Attorney fees may be awarded to a prevailing party when authorized by contract, statute, or law. (Code Civ. Proc., ;; 1032, 1033.5, subd. (a)(10); Civ. Code, ; 1717, subd. (a).)

Cal Décor contends that it is entitled to attorney fees under Section 29 of the lease between it and Jenkins. The lease states, “In the event of a dispute between Landlord and Tenant, any and all attorney fees shall be paid by the prevailing party.” (See Cal Décor’s 12/12/2019 Request for Clarification, Ex. A, ; 29.) Cal Décor argues, “The word ‘by’ is an obvious mutual mistake, a typographical error, as this provision clearly intends to award attorneys’ fees ‘to’ the prevailing party, and not to the non-prevailing party (which of course would make no sense at all). The purpose of this provision is clear, and the error is inconsequential.” (Motion at p. 7, fn. 6.)

Medrano argues that the lease does not provide for an award of attorney fees to the prevailing party, and no evidence was presented at trial showing that this language was mistaken and did not reflect Jenkins’s intention. (Opposition at p. 5.)

When Cal Décor sought clarification of the proposed statement of decision, its argument was similar to the one it advances here. In the request for clarification, Cal Décor contended that the wording of Section 29 “reflects an obvious mutual mistake, a typographical error, as this provision clearly intends to award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party, not to the non-prevailing party (which of course would make no sense at all).” (Dec. 12, 2019 Request for Clarification at pp. 1-2, fn. 1.) The previously-assigned judge issued a minute order clarifying that “costs of suit” includes reasonable attorney fees, and attorney fees were included in the final statement of decision’s award. The Court cannot now reconsider that decision and instead find that Cal Décor is not entitled to attorney fees as the prevailing party. (See Marriage of Oliverez (2015) 238 Cal.App.4th 1242, 1248 [“‘For one superior court judge, no matter how well intended, even if correct as a matter of law, to nullify a duly made, erroneous ruling of another superior court judge places the second judge in the role of a one-judge appellate court.’ [Citation.]”]; see also id. at p. 1259 [“‘Mere disagreement . . . with the prior trial judge’s ruling . . . is not enough to overturn that ruling.’ [Citation.]”].)

B. Amount of Attorney Fees

Medrano argues that even if attorney fees are available, the amount requested is excessive. California courts apply the “lodestar” approach to determine what fees are reasonable. (See, e.g., Holguin v. DISH Network LLC (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 1310, 1332.) This inquiry “begins with the ‘lodestar,’ i.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate.” (PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095.) From there, 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.” (Ibid.) Relevant factors include “(1) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, (2) the skill displayed in presenting them, (3) the extent to which the nature of the litigation precluded other employment by the attorneys, [and] (4) the contingent nature of the fee award.” (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1132.) The party seeking fees has the burden of documenting the appropriate hours expended and hourly rates. (City of Colton v. Singletary (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 751, 784.)

Cal Décor’s counsel charges various rates: $525 for Lisa J. Jackson; $750 for Jeffrey B. Valle; $375 for Nuritsa Ksachikyan; and $150 for paralegals. (Jackson Decl. ¶¶ 7; Valle Decl. ¶¶ 10-12.) The Court finds that these rates are reasonable for this type of case in the Los Angeles area based on counsel’s qualifications, skills, and experience as set forth in the declarations.

The questions involved were somewhat complicated. The final statement of decision was fifteen pages long with a lengthy recitation of the facts. The parties litigated not only the validity and enforceability of the lease but also multiple affirmative defenses to the enforceability of the lease. Cal Décor’s counsel did not show that the litigation precluded other employment. Counsel had a hybrid contingent/flat fee arrangement.

Cal Décor’s counsel spent 1,359.3 hours working on this case. (Jackson Decl. ¶ 7; Valle Decl. ¶ 14.) At counsel’s various rates, Cal Décor therefore seeks an award of $600,792.50 in attorney fees. The billing records show sufficient detail to determine the tasks performed. While there are some internal meetings and multiple communications between Cal Décor’s counsel, Valle explains that Jackson had the historical knowledge of the case he needed to prepare for and try the case. Generally the amount of time billed to discrete tasks is appropriate for those types of tasks.

However, some depositions showed two or three Cal Décor attorneys in attendance. Generally only one attorney per party needs to attend a deposition. At the June 14, 2019 Madrano deposition, three attorneys for Cal Décor attended – Valle, Jackson, and Nuritsa Ksachikyan. That is excessive. By that date, the attorneys from Valle Makoff LLP had been involved in the case for four months, giving them sufficient time to learn the case. Therefore, the Court reduces the fees by $5,250. Similarly, at the June 19, 2019 Garcia deposition, two Cal Décor attorneys attended. The Court reduces the fee by $2,437. At the June 21, 2019 Neyda deposition, two Cal Décor attorneys attended. The Court reduces the fees by $2,812. On August 16, 2019, two Cal Décor attorneys attended the Bench deposition. The Court reduces the fees by $1,800.

Also, many of the descriptions on the Jackson bills are completely redacted which does not allow the Court to determine the reasonableness of the time. A total of 73.25 hours of Jackson’s time have completely redacted descriptions. Therefore, the Court reduces the fees by $27,468.

Medrano also notes various billing entries that relate to Defendant Duarte. (Id. at pp. 8-9.) Cal Décor agrees to reduce its request for some related to work performed solely to Defendant Duarte that was inadvertently included. (Reply at pp. 7-8, 10.) The Court therefore reduces the fees by $487.50 for work performed by Ksachikyan (1.3 hours at $375 per hour) and $7,905.00 for work performed by Jackson (18.6 hours at $425). The Court also reduces the fees by $11,050.00 for time billed relating to Defendant Duarte for a TRO and discovery (26 hours at $425).

Finally, Medrano argues that because the parties settled their other causes of action, some of those causes of action were non-contract claims, and there is no prevailing party on those causes of action, a 33% reduction is appropriate for apportionment of fees. (Opposition at pp. 6-7.) The lease provides for attorney fees “[i]n the event of a dispute between Landlord and Tenant.” Such a broad fee provision may include fees incurred in all litigation, whether in contract or tort. (Lockton v. O’Rourke (2010) 184 Cal.App.4th 1051, 1076.) Although there is no prevailing party for the causes of action that were dismissed pursuant to settlement (Civ. Code, ; 1717, subd. (b)(2)), “[a]pportionment is not required when the issues in the fee and nonfee claims are so inextricably intertwined that it would be impractical or impossible to separate the attorney’s time into compensable and noncompensable units.” (Graciano v. Robinson Ford Sales, Inc. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 140, 159.)

The Court finds that is the case here. The other causes of action largely depended on whether the lease was valid. For example, the elder abuse and conversion cause of actions allege Neyda Bozeman, who operated and controlled Cal Décor, took Jenkins’ property. Whether the lease was valid determined at least in part whether Cal Décor improperly took property. Similarly, the breach of fiduciary duty cause of action alleged in part that Bozeman breached her fiduciary duties by executing the lease with a low monthly rent that was beneficial to herself. However, the Court’s statement of decision determined that at the time the lease was executed, she had no ownership interest in the business and no idea she would eventually inherit an ownership interest, and that Jenkins was free to enter into whatever lease terms he desired. This shows that the issues decided in the first trial were intertwined with the other causes of action. And the fact that the case settled after the finding of validity and decision in the first trial supports the conclusion the claims were intertwined. Therefore, apportionment is not required.

Cal Décor seeks $12,840.00 in attorney fees for 32.9 hours working on this motion, the reply, and the hearing on the motion. (Ksachikyan Decl. ¶ 4.) This time is somewhat excessive. For example, counsel bills a total of 21.1 hours related to the reply. The Court reduces this amount by $2,625.

C. Conclusion

The motion for attorney fees is GRANTED IN PART. Cal Décor is awarded attorney fees in the amount of $538,961 ($600,795.50 minus $61,834.50). Cal Décor is also awarded $21,105.22 in costs.

Moving party to give notice.

Parties who intend to submit on this tentative must send an email to the Court at SMCDEPT48@lacourt.org indicating intention to submit. Parties intending to appear are STRONGLY encouraged to appear remotely.



Case Number: ****9934    Hearing Date: March 29, 2021    Dept: 48

[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE MOTIONS IN LIMINE

Plaintiff’s MIL No. 1

Plaintiff California Décor seeks an order excluding a retrial of issues from Phase 1. Defendants argue that under European Beverage, Inc. v. Superior Court (1996) 43 Cal.App.4th 1211, all of the issues from Phase 1 must be relitigated because the judge who decided Phase 1 retired. Plaintiff argues that case only applies where the judge will be the trier of fact in both phases of the trial but here the second phase will be tried by the jury.

The holding in European Beverage is, “Where there has been an interlocutory judgment rendered by one judge, and that judge then becomes unavailable to decide the remainder of the case, a successor judge is obliged to hear the evidence and make his or her own decisions on all issues, including those that had been tried before the first judge . . .” (Id. at p. 1214.) This rule is inapplicable here because a judge will not “decide the remainder of the case.” A jury will decide Phase 2 of the case.

The motion is GRANTED.

Plaintiff’s MIL No. 2

Plaintiff California Décor seeks to exclude evidence or refence to Plaintiff’s attorney Lisa Jackson’s bar record regarding disciplinary action in Connecticut in 2005 and in California ending in 2010. Plaintiff argues that evidence is irrelevant and prejudicial. Defendant argues Jackson is a witness regarding the drafting of the lease and so her credibility is at issue.

Phase 1 of the trial determined the lease was valid and enforceable. Therefore, Jackson’s credibility as a witness is not relevant.

The motion is GRANTED.

Moving party to give notice.

Parties who intend to submit on this tentative must send an email to the Court at SMCDEPT48@lacourt.org indicating intention to submit. Parties intending to appear are STRONGLY encouraged to appear remotely.



related-case-search

Dig Deeper

Get Deeper Insights on Court Cases


Latest cases represented by Lawyer VALLE JEFFREY BOYD