This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 10/18/2019 at 03:04:02 (UTC).

ELIZABETH VELADOR ET AL VS FORD MOTOR COMPANY

Case Summary

On 01/30/2018 a Contract - Other Contract case was filed by ELIZABETH VELADOR against FORD MOTOR COMPANY in the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****2274

  • Filing Date:

    01/30/2018

  • 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

DEIRDRE HILL

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs and Petitioners

SALCIDO DAVID MONTES

VELADOR ELIZABETH

Defendants and Respondents

DOES 1 TO 10

FORD MOTOR COMPANY

 

Court Documents

Notice of Settlement

5/2/2019: Notice of Settlement

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (FINAL STATUS CONFERENCE)

5/6/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (FINAL STATUS CONFERENCE)

Declaration - Declaration OF AMY MORSE IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO COMPEL

1/18/2019: Declaration - Declaration OF AMY MORSE IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO COMPEL

Notice - Notice Plaintiffs' Notice of Motion and Motion to Compel Further Responses for Production

1/18/2019: Notice - Notice Plaintiffs' Notice of Motion and Motion to Compel Further Responses for Production

CIVIL DEPOSIT -

8/3/2018: CIVIL DEPOSIT -

FORD MOTOR COMPANY'S NOTICE OF POSTING JURY FEES

8/3/2018: FORD MOTOR COMPANY'S NOTICE OF POSTING JURY FEES

CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT -

7/10/2018: CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT -

CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT -

7/10/2018: CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT -

CIVIL DEPOSIT -

7/10/2018: CIVIL DEPOSIT -

Minute Order -

5/3/2018: Minute Order -

Minute Order -

3/29/2018: Minute Order -

PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE TO JUDICIAL OFFICER (CODE CIV. PROC., ? 170.6)

3/1/2018: PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE TO JUDICIAL OFFICER (CODE CIV. PROC., ? 170.6)

DEFENDANT FORD MOTOR COMPANY'S ANSWER TO PLAINTIFFS COMPLAINT

3/1/2018: DEFENDANT FORD MOTOR COMPANY'S ANSWER TO PLAINTIFFS COMPLAINT

NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE PROOF OF SERVICE

3/15/2018: NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE PROOF OF SERVICE

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE HEARING

2/16/2018: ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE HEARING

COMPLAINT 1. VIOLATION OF SONG-BEVERLY ACT -BREACH OF EXPRESS WARRANTY ;ETC

1/30/2018: COMPLAINT 1. VIOLATION OF SONG-BEVERLY ACT -BREACH OF EXPRESS WARRANTY ;ETC

SUMMONS -

1/30/2018: SUMMONS -

17 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 01/23/2020
  • Hearing01/23/2020 at 08:30 AM in Department 73 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Order to Show Cause Re: Dismissal

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  • 10/16/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 73; Order to Show Cause Re: Dismissal - Held - Continued

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  • 10/16/2019
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Order to Show Cause Re: Dismissal)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 05/20/2019
  • Docketat 08:33 AM in Department 73; Jury Trial - Not Held - Advanced and Vacated

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  • 05/15/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 73; Hearing on Motion to Compel Further Discovery Responses - Not Held - Advanced and Vacated

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  • 05/06/2019
  • Docketat 08:32 AM in Department 73; Final Status Conference - Not Held - Vacated by Court

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  • 05/06/2019
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Final Status Conference)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 05/02/2019
  • DocketNotice of Settlement; Filed by Elizabeth Velador (Plaintiff); David Montes Salcido (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/27/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 73; Hearing on Ex Parte Application ( FOR AN ORDER SPECIALLY SETTING THE HEARING DATE ON PLAINTIFFS? MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION FROM DEFENDANT FORD MOTOR COMPANY, AND REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIE) - Held

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  • 02/27/2019
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Ex Parte Application for an Order Specially Settin...)); Filed by Clerk

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38 More Docket Entries
  • 02/16/2018
  • DocketORDER TO SHOW CAUSE HEARING

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  • 02/16/2018
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/16/2018
  • DocketOSC-RE Other (Miscellaneous); Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/16/2018
  • DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

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  • 02/02/2018
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 02/02/2018
  • DocketProof-Service/Summons; Filed by Elizabeth Velador (Plaintiff)

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  • 01/30/2018
  • DocketDEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

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  • 01/30/2018
  • DocketSUMMONS

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  • 01/30/2018
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Elizabeth Velador (Plaintiff); David Montes Salcido (Plaintiff)

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  • 01/30/2018
  • DocketCOMPLAINT 1. VIOLATION OF SONG-BEVERLY ACT -BREACH OF EXPRESS WARRANTY ;ETC

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC692274    Hearing Date: February 20, 2020    Dept: 73

2/20/20

Dept. 73

Rafael Ongkeko, Judge presiding

ELIZABETH VELADOR ET AL. V. FORD MOTOR COMPANY (BC692274)

Counsel for Plaintiffs: Knight Law Group (Steve Mikhov; Deepak Devabose)

Counsel for Defendant: Snell & Wilmer (Warren Platt; Katharine Adams)

Matters:

1. PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES, COSTS AND EXPENSES (filed 11/13/19)

2. DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO TAX COSTS (filed 12/2/19)

Tentative ruling

1. Plaintiffs’ motion for attorney’s fees is GRANTED in part; DENIED in part. Reasonable attorney’s fees are awarded in favor of Plaintiffs in the amount of $29,837.50. Costs and expenses are addressed concurrently in connection with Defendant’s motion to tax costs.

2. Defendant’s motion to tax costs is GRANTED in part. Plaintiffs’ costs are reduced by $369.67. The court awards costs in favor of Plaintiffs in the amount of $3,928.77.

3. The parties’ respective evidentiary objections are overruled.

4. The court sets an Order to Show Cause re entry of dismissal in 30 days: ________. No appearance is required if the dismissal has been entered.

Discussion

This is a lemon law action.

Plaintiffs Elizabeth Velador and David Montes Salcido (collectively “Plaintiffs”) sued Defendant Ford Motor Company (“Defendant”) for claims arising from Plaintiffs’ purchase of a new 2013 Ford Fusion. On January 30, 2018, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit for Breach of Express and Implied Warranty; and Violation of Song-Beverly Act § 1793.2.

On May 2, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Settlement. Per the settlement, Defendant paid Plaintiffs $123,206.61.

On November 13, 2019, Plaintiffs filed this fee motion and a memorandum of costs.

On December 2, 2019, Defendant filed its motion to tax costs.

Fee Motion

Plaintiffs seek $50,898.75 in fees and $4,298.44 in costs—a total of $55,197.19. The $50,898.75 in attorney fees is based on attorney fees in the amount of $50,898.75—i.e., the combined billing of the Knight Law Group ($27,985.00) and billing of Law Offices of Michael Rosenstein ($3,217.50) and Altman Law Group ($2,730.00) — and a 0.5 multiplier ($16,966.25).

Motion to Tax Costs

Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1033.5 and California Rules of Court, rule 3.1700, Defendant opposes the fee motion and moves to tax $412.93 in costs listed in item no. 13 of the memorandum of costs (“other”):

Cost Type

Cost

Attorney services and messengers for court filings and service

$334.73

Overnight courier delivery

$53.26

Travel

$34.94

Total

$412.93

ANALYSIS

A. Fee Motion

Entitlement to Fees as Prevailing Party

Undisputed.

Reasonableness of Attorney Fees, Costs, and Expenses

The calculation of attorneys’ fees under the Song-Beverly Act is based on the lodestar method, which multiplies the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate. (Graciano v. Robinson Ford Sales (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 140, 154; Robertson v. Fleetwood Travel Trailers of California, Inc. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 785, 817-819.) “The lodestar is the basic fee for comparable legal services in the community; it may be adjusted by the court based on factors including, as relevant herein, (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, (4) the contingent nature of the fee award. (Graciano, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th at 154.) “The purpose of such adjustment is to fix a fee at the fair market value for the particular action.” (Ibid.) “In effect, the court determines, retrospectively, whether the litigation involved a contingent risk or required extraordinary legal skill justifying augmentation of the unadorned lodestar in order to approximate the fair market rate for such services.” (Ibid.) An attorney’s time spent and hourly rate are presumed to be reasonable. (Mandel v. Lackner (1979) 92 Cal.App.3d 747, 761.)

Although an attorney’s fee arrangement with his or her client may also have some bearing on lodestar adjustment, it does not compel any particular award. (PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000), 22 Cal.4th1084, 1096; see Vella v. Hudgins (1984) 151 Cal.App.3d 515, 521.) Indeed, an award of attorney fees to prevailing plaintiff in an amount greater than plaintiff actually incurred under a contingency agreement may even be proper. (See Persson v. Smart Inventions, Inc. (2005) 125 Cal.App.4th 1141, 1172–1176 [contingency agreement did not bar plaintiff’s recovery of reasonable attorney fees provided under stock redemption agreement between the parties and amount was not limited to fees actually incurred].)

KNIGHT LAW GROUP

Name

Hourly Rate

Hours

Amount

Steve Mikhov (“SBM”)

$550

5.5

$3,025.00

Amy Morse (“ALM”)

$350

15.4

$5,390.00

Kristina Stephenson-Cheang (“KSC”)

$375

28.9

$10,837.50

George Semaan (“GS”)

$225

2.0

$450.00

Chris Swanson (“CS”)

$375

1.7

$637.50

Deepak Devabose (“DD”)

$275

4.0

$1,100.00

Marisa Melero (“MM”)

$225

No charge

No charge

Mitchell Rosensweig (“MER”)

$325

No charge

No charge

Natalee Fisher (“NF”)

$225

No charge

No charge

Mark R. Berns (“MRB”)

$350

4.7[1]

$1,645.00

Anticipated 14

Anticipated $4,900.00

TOTAL (without fee motion)

77.6

$21,440.00

TOTAL (with fee motion including anticipated tasks)

96.3

$27,985.00

LAW OFFICES OF MICHAEL H. ROSENSTEIN

Name

Hourly Rate

Hours per Decl.

Amount (Based on Decl.)

James P. Martinez (“JM”)

$275

11.7

$3,217.50

TOTAL

11.7

$3,217.50

ALTMAN LAW GROUP

Name

Hourly Rate

Hours per Decl.

Amount (Based on Decl.)

Michael Morris-Nussbaum (“MMN”)

$325

8.4

$2,730.00

TOTAL

8.4

$2,730.00

COMBINED FIRMS

Hours

Amount (Based on Decl.)

TOTAL (without fee motion)

77.6

$27,387.50

TOTAL (with fee motion including anticipated tasks)

96.3

$33,933.00

Defendant argues Plaintiffs’ fee claim is excessive because:

Plaintiffs’ counsel’s purported double recovery

Defendant argues that Plaintiffs’ counsel is double-dipping as Mikhov’s typical fee agreement provides that should his clients recover additional damages such as civil penalties, 45% of those damages shall be due to the law firm. (Adams Decl. Ex. C ¶¶ 1-2.) Defendant requests the court to inquire into Plaintiffs’ counsel’s practices. (Opposition 2:15-3:2.) The court declines to do so. First, Defendant does not submit admissible evidence to support its argument. There is no proof of what the fee agreement was in this case. Even if the fee agreement involves this allocation, that matter is between Plaintiffs and their counsel to resolve. Defendant does not cite any on-point case law or other authority requiring the court to consider such information when ruling on a motion for attorney fees.

Knight Law Group Hours & Rates

The court finds that KLG’s hours expended and invoiced are reasonable and were reasonably incurred. While KLG’s work is no doubt of the cookie-cutter variety in a non-complex area of law, the laws otherwise expended appear commensurate with the time required to devote to investigation, pleadings, court appearances, and discovery leading up to the eventual 998 offer. Nor does the court detect evidence of padding, duplicative or overhead billing, or over-staffing. The hourly rates requested for KLG are reasonable based on the court’s familiarity with rates in the community for this type of relatively high-volume, cookie-cutter, non-complex work by attorneys having significant experience doing lemon law cases.

Notwithstanding the above, the court does find the stated hours for work incurred with the fee motion excessive and unreasonable. The court finds 7 hours reasonable, not the claimed 18.7 hours.

The court establishes the reasonable hours for the KLG firm at 84.6 at the rates indicated. This amount computes to $23,890.

Non-KLG Firms (Law Offices of Michael H. Rosenstein and Altman Law Group)

The court finds that non-KLG firm’s hours expended and invoiced are reasonable and were reasonably incurred for the same reasons as set forth above.

The court establishes the hours for James P. Martinez (of the Law Offices of Michael H. Rosenstein) and Michael Morris-Nussbaum (of the Altman Law Group) at 11.7 and 8.4 hours respectively at the rates indicated. This amount computes to $5,947.50.

Multiplier

Given the work done in this case and the results obtained in this non-complex volume-driven lemon law specialty, the court need not make any other adjustments up or down—no multiplier is awarded. Any contingency risk factor appears already accounted for in counsel’s hourly rates. Without earlier settlement demands that might have proven fruitful, any increase attributable to the delay is not sufficient reason for a multiplier based on all circumstances in this case.

Defendant requests an unspecified negative multiplier. However, the court does not find this request to be appropriate. There is nothing before the court to suggest the case was so simple and required so little skill that a negative multiplier is warranted. Instead, this was a straightforward lemon law case and no multiplier of any sort is appropriate.

In brief, Plaintiffs are entitled to recover the total lodestar fee of $29,837.50.

Costs

Plaintiffs’ request for costs is addressed in connection with the motion to tax.

B. Tax Costs

After a prevailing party files a memorandum of costs, the losing party may dispute any or all of the items in the prevailing party’s costs memorandum by a motion to strike or tax costs. (See Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1700(b).) “A ‘verified memorandum of costs is prima facie evidence of the propriety’ of the items listed on it, and the burden is on the party challenging these costs to demonstrate that they were not reasonable or necessary.” (Adams v. Ford Motor Co. (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 1475, 1486-1487 italics and brackets omitted.) On the other hand, items that are properly objected to are put in issue, and the burden of proof is on the party claiming them as costs. (Ladas v. California State Auto. Ass’n (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 761, 774–776.) Whether an item listed on the cost bill was reasonably necessary is a question of fact for the trial court, whose decision is reviewed on appeal for abuse of discretion. (Bender v. County of Los Angeles, supra, 217 Cal.App.4th at 989.)

While the right to recover costs of suit is generally determined by Code of Civil Procedure section 1032 et seq., some statutes expressly provide methods for determining the right to recover costs. In such cases, the statutorily-described method prevails. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1032(b) [“Except as otherwise expressly provided by statute, a prevailing party is entitled as a matter of right to recover costs”].) Song-Beverly contains a cost-shifting provision that expressly allows prevailing plaintiffs to recover their costs. That statute provides: “If the buyer prevails in an action under this section, the buyer shall be allowed by the court to recover as part of the judgment a sum equal to the aggregate amount of costs and expenses, including attorney’s fees based on actual time expended, determined by the court to have been reasonably incurred by the buyer in connection with the commencement and prosecution of such action.” (Civ. Code, § 1794(d).)

Defendant moves to tax items listed in “other costs,” specifically: (1) attorney services and messengers for court filings and service; (2) overnight; and (3) travel.

As a preliminary matter, the court finds that Plaintiffs’ argument relying on Jensen v. BMW of North America, Inc. (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 112, 137 that Code of Civil Procedure section 1794 extends the recovery of all costs and expenses beyond Code of Civil Procedure section 1033.5 is mistaken. Jensen held that while expert fees may be recovered under section 1794, a court still must determine whether those fees were reasonably incurred. (Ibid.)

The court now examines whether the costs were reasonably incurred.

Messenger Service – GRANT ($334.73)

Costs for courier or messenger (including overnight) may be recoverable in the trial court’s discretion if “reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation.” (Foothill-De Anza Community College Dist. v. Emerich (2007) 158 Cal.App.4th 11, 30.) Defendant moves to strike the entire $334.73 in fees for attorney services and messenger services. In opposition, Plaintiffs argue that these fees were incurred for the filing of documents, including the complaint, CMC, and motion to compel requests for production. In reply, Defendant maintains that Plaintiffs failed to justify that these costs were reasonable instead of just being convenient.

Plaintiffs produced invoices that demonstrates the costs incurred. However, Plaintiffs still do not explain in a declaration why these costs were reasonably necessary and not just incurred for the sake of convenience. Defendant’s motion to tax $334.73 in “other” costs associated with messenger service is GRANTED.

Overnight Courier – DENY ($53.26)

As mentioned above, costs for courier or messenger (including overnight) may be recoverable in the trial court’s discretion if “reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation.” (Foothill-De Anza Community College Dist., supra, 158 Cal.App.4th at 30.) Defendant moves to tax the entire $53.26 for costs associated with overnight couriers. In opposition, Plaintiffs argue that this is precisely the type of cost that most clients have to pay their attorneys and it is clear these costs were reasonably incurred in the commencement and prosecution of the matter.

Plaintiffs produced invoices that demonstrates the costs incurred. Additionally, considering Plaintiffs are obligated to serve documents by overnight, these costs are reasonably necessary and not just incurred for the sake of convenience. Defendant’s motion to tax $53.26 in “other” costs associated with overnight courier is DENIED.

Travel Expenses – GRANT ($34.94)

The only travel expenses authorized by section 1033.5 are those to attend depositions. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1033.5 (a)(3).) Routine expenses for local travel not related to depositions, including parking fees, mileage, and cab fare, by attorneys or other firm employees are not reasonably necessary to the conduct of litigation. (Ladas, supra, 19 Cal.App.4th at 775-776.)

Defendant moves to tax the $34.94 in costs related to travel expenses.

In opposition, Plaintiffs argue that the travel costs were incurred when Plaintiffs’ attorneys traveled to and attended an ex parte hearing to set Plaintiffs’ discovery motions. These fees are not related to depositions. Moreover, even if they were, Plaintiffs fails to explain why this ex parte application was reasonably necessary instead of just being convenient in their attempts to obtain discovery. Defendant’s motion to tax $34.94 in “other” costs associated with travel is GRANTED.

Plaintiffs’ Request for Attorney Fees Incurred for Opposing Defendant’s Motion to Tax Costs – DENY ($1,890)

Plaintiffs’ counsel in the opposition requests the court order $1,890 in attorney fees for opposing Defendant’s motion. (See Mikhov Decl. ¶¶ 8-9.) This amount is not otherwise incorporated in Plaintiffs’ attorney fees motion. The Court finds awarding attorney fees to Plaintiffs unjust considering Defendant’s motion succeeded on two of the three challenged items. Even if the court were to award attorney fees to Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs’ requested fees are unreasonable because the amount of time spent on each task is excessive. (Mikhov Decl. Ex. C [1.0 hours to review Defendant’s motion, 3.4 hours to draft opposition, and 1.0 anticipated hours to review Defendant’s reply].)

Plaintiffs’ request for attorney fees in conjunction with their opposition to Defendant’s motion to tax costs is DENIED.


[1] These hours were incurred to prepare the fee motion.

[2] Defendant’s opposition identifies this time as 6.4 hours and 6.9 hours. (Compare opposition 3:23 with 7:3.)