This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 09/08/2020 at 19:13:15 (UTC).

MARIO DE LA TORRE ET AL VS CANDIDO RAMIREZ ET AL

Case Summary

On 07/27/2017 MARIO DE LA TORRE filed a Property - Other Real Property lawsuit against CANDIDO RAMIREZ. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are SUSAN BRYANT-DEASON and RANDOLPH M. HAMMOCK. The case status is Disposed - Judgment Entered.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****0157

  • Filing Date:

    07/27/2017

  • Case Status:

    Disposed - Judgment Entered

  • Case Type:

    Property - Other Real Property

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

SUSAN BRYANT-DEASON

RANDOLPH M. HAMMOCK

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs, Petitioners, Respondents and Appellants

DE LA TORRE MARIO

ALVARADO MARIA

PADILLA MARCEL

Plaintiffs, Petitioners and Respondents

DE LA TORRE MARIO

ALVARADO MARIA

Defendants, Respondents and Appellants

RAMIREZ CANDIDO

MOUNTAIN REAL ESTATE EXCHANGE LLC

PADILLA MARCEL

PEREIRA RAMON

DOES 1 TO 25

RAMIREZ ROSA

DE LA TORRE MARIO

ALVARADO MARIA

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorney

LURIE BARAK ESQ.

Attorney at Lurie & Seltzer

12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 300

Los Angeles, CA 90025

Defendant Attorneys

VINCENT W. DAVIS ESQ.

WARREN ODEHA LYNETTE

Attorney at Law Office of Odeha Warren

25096 Jefferson Ave

Murrieta, CA 92562

 

Court Documents

Request for Judicial Notice

4/19/2019: Request for Judicial Notice

Declaration - DECLARATION OF BRENT A. KRAMER, ESQ. IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS' OPPOSITION TO AMENDED MOTION TO SET ASIDE DEFAULT

4/19/2019: Declaration - DECLARATION OF BRENT A. KRAMER, ESQ. IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS' OPPOSITION TO AMENDED MOTION TO SET ASIDE DEFAULT

Motion to Set Aside/Vacate Default

1/31/2019: Motion to Set Aside/Vacate Default

Minute Order - Minute Order (Default Prove Up Hearing)

2/1/2019: Minute Order - Minute Order (Default Prove Up Hearing)

OMNIBUS PROOF OF SERVICE

7/16/2018: OMNIBUS PROOF OF SERVICE

DECLARATION OF BRENT A. KRAMER, ESQ. IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS' OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO SET ASIDE DEFAULT

7/16/2018: DECLARATION OF BRENT A. KRAMER, ESQ. IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS' OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO SET ASIDE DEFAULT

NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO SET ASIDE ENTRY OF DEFAULT OF MARCH 20, 2018, ETC

8/15/2018: NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO SET ASIDE ENTRY OF DEFAULT OF MARCH 20, 2018, ETC

NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO SET ASIDE ENTRY OF DEFAULT OF MARCH 20, 2018; POINTS AND AUTHORITIES AND DECLARATION OF MARCEL PADILLA, OPERATING OFFICER OF MOUNTAIN REAL ESTATE EXCHANGE, LLC.

9/6/2018: NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO SET ASIDE ENTRY OF DEFAULT OF MARCH 20, 2018; POINTS AND AUTHORITIES AND DECLARATION OF MARCEL PADILLA, OPERATING OFFICER OF MOUNTAIN REAL ESTATE EXCHANGE, LLC.

Proof of Service -

12/28/2017: Proof of Service -

Appellate Order for Augmentation/Correction of Appeal Record - APPELLATE ORDER FOR AUGMENTATION/CORRECTION OF APPEAL RECORD FILED BY DCA, B298279, NOA 6/7/19 & 6/17/19; AUGMENTATION ORDER CT / RT;

8/3/2020: Appellate Order for Augmentation/Correction of Appeal Record - APPELLATE ORDER FOR AUGMENTATION/CORRECTION OF APPEAL RECORD FILED BY DCA, B298279, NOA 6/7/19 & 6/17/19; AUGMENTATION ORDER CT / RT;

Appellate Order Reinstating Appeal - APPELLATE ORDER REINSTATING APPEAL NOA: 06/17/19 B298279

6/5/2020: Appellate Order Reinstating Appeal - APPELLATE ORDER REINSTATING APPEAL NOA: 06/17/19 B298279

Supplemental Declaration - SUPPLEMENTAL DECLARATION OF MARIO DE LA TORRE IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS FEES

11/27/2019: Supplemental Declaration - SUPPLEMENTAL DECLARATION OF MARIO DE LA TORRE IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS FEES

Appeal - Notice of Default Issued

10/16/2019: Appeal - Notice of Default Issued

Stipulation and Order to use Certified Shorthand Reporter

5/2/2019: Stipulation and Order to use Certified Shorthand Reporter

Opposition - OPPOSITION TO AMENDED MOTION TO SET ASIDE DEFAULT; REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST CANDIDO RAMIREZ AND HIS COUNSEL, LAW OFFICE OF VINCENT W. DAVIS, ESQ.

4/19/2019: Opposition - OPPOSITION TO AMENDED MOTION TO SET ASIDE DEFAULT; REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST CANDIDO RAMIREZ AND HIS COUNSEL, LAW OFFICE OF VINCENT W. DAVIS, ESQ.

STATEMENT OF DAMAGES

3/9/2018: STATEMENT OF DAMAGES

DECLARATION OF VINCENT W. DAVIS, ESQ. IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO SET ASIDE NOTICE OF ENTRY OF DEFAULT OF MARCH 20, 2018

5/30/2018: DECLARATION OF VINCENT W. DAVIS, ESQ. IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO SET ASIDE NOTICE OF ENTRY OF DEFAULT OF MARCH 20, 2018

Proof of Service -

12/28/2017: Proof of Service -

138 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 09/03/2020
  • DocketAppeal - Original Clerk's Transcript 2 Volumes Certified (for Notices of Appeal, filed 6/7/19 {"R"} & 6/17/19 {"R1"}); Filed by Clerk

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  • 08/19/2020
  • DocketAppeal - Notice of Default Issued ("R" "R1"); Filed by Clerk

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  • 08/03/2020
  • DocketAppellate Order for Augmentation/Correction of Appeal Record (FILED BY DCA, B298279, NOA 6/7/19 & 6/17/19; AUGMENTATION ORDER CT / RT;); Filed by Clerk

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  • 07/31/2020
  • DocketAppeal - Notice of Fees Due for Clerk's Transcript on Appeal (6/7 & 6/17/19 B298279); Filed by Clerk

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  • 06/05/2020
  • DocketAppellate Order Reinstating Appeal (NOA: 06/17/19-R1 B298279); Filed by Clerk

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/05/2020
  • DocketAppellate Order Reinstating Appeal (NOA: 06/17/19 B298279); Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/23/2020
  • DocketAppeal - Remittitur - Appeal Dismissed (B298279); Filed by Clerk

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  • 03/13/2020
  • DocketAppeal - Notice of Non-Compliance (NOA: 06/17/19 B298279); Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/21/2020
  • DocketAppellate Order Dismissing Appeal (NOA: 6/6/19 B298279); Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/18/2020
  • DocketAppellate Order Reinstating Appeal (NOA: 06/17/19-R B298279); Filed by Clerk

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201 More Docket Entries
  • 08/15/2017
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 08/15/2017
  • DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

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  • 08/07/2017
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 52; Unknown Event Type - Held - Motion Granted

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  • 08/07/2017
  • DocketMinute order entered: 2017-08-07 00:00:00; Filed by Clerk

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  • 08/07/2017
  • DocketMinute Order

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  • 08/03/2017
  • DocketChallenge To Judicial Officer - Peremptory (170.6); Filed by Mario De La Torre (Plaintiff); Maria Alvarado (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/03/2017
  • DocketPEREMPTORY CHALLENGE TO JUDICIAL OFFICER

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  • 07/27/2017
  • DocketVERIFIED COMPLAINT FOR: (1) QUIET TITLE (4802 W. 136 ST.); ETC

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  • 07/27/2017
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Mario De La Torre (Plaintiff); Maria Alvarado (Plaintiff)

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  • 07/27/2017
  • DocketSUMMONS

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC670157    Hearing Date: November 19, 2019    Dept: 47

Mario De La Torre, et al. v. Candido Ramirez, et al.

 

MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS FEES OF $122,058 AGAINST DEFENDANT

CANDIDO RAMIREZ

MOVING PARTY: Plaintiffs Mario De La Torre and Maria Alvarado

RESPONDING PARTY(S): Defendant Candido Ramirez

STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS AND/OR PROCEEDINGS:

Plaintiffs sought to quiet title due to adverse possession. On April 9, 2019, the Court entered judgment quieting title in favor of Plaintiffs to the three subject properties and cancelling the three grant deeds conveying to Mountain Real Estate Exchange LLC. Also, Plaintiffs were deemed prevailing parties on the breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing causes of action against Defendant Candido Ramirez for purposes of costs.

Plaintiffs now move for attorney’s fees against Defendant Candido Ramirez.

TENTATIVE RULING:

Plaintiffs Mario De La Torre and Maria Alvarado’s motion for attorney’s fees is GRANTED in the amount of $24,000.

Moving party to give notice, unless waived.

DISCUSSION:

Motion For Attorney’s Fees

Plaintiff moves for an award of attorney’s fees under Civil Code § 1717 and CCP § 1021 and 1033.5(a)(10) in the amount of $122,058 against Defendant Candido Ramirez, pursuant to two settlement agreements that provided for attorney’s fees to the prevailing party.

In 1990 and 1993, the parties entered into settlement agreements that provided that, “[i]n the event of any dispute under or be [sic] reason of this agreement, the prevailing party in any such dispute shall be entitled to reimbursement for his actual attorney’s fees, if reasonable, and all other costs of litigation actually, but necessarily, incurred, including fees and costs incurred.” (Complaint, Exh. 4 ¶ 12, 6 ¶ 12.) In this Court’s judgment dated April 9, 2019, it determined that Plaintiffs were the prevailing parties on their causes of action for breach of these settlement agreements and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, for purposes of entitling Plaintiffs to an award of costs on these causes of action.

(a) In any action on a contract, where the contract specifically provides that attorney’s fees and costs, which are incurred to enforce that contract, shall be awarded either to one of the parties or to the prevailing party, then the party who is determined to be the party prevailing on the contract, whether he or she is the party specified in the contract or not, shall be entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees in addition to other costs.

* * *

Reasonable attorney’s fees shall be fixed by the court, and shall be an element of the costs of suit.

(b)(1) The court, upon notice and motion by a party, shall determine who is the party prevailing on the contract for purposes of this section, whether or not the suit proceeds to final judgment. Except as provided in paragraph (2), the party prevailing on the contract shall be the party who recovered a greater relief in the action on the contract. The court may also determine that there is no party prevailing on the contract for purposes of this section.

(2) Where an action has been voluntarily dismissed or dismissed pursuant to a settlement of the case, there shall be no prevailing party for purposes of this section.

* * *

(Civ. Code § 1717(a), (b).)

A motion for attorneys’ fees is to be filed within 60 days after the date of service of the notice of entry of judgment. (CRC 3.1702(b)(1) [incorporating by reference the 60-day deadline of 8.104(1)(A)].) Here, the default judgment was entered on April 9, 2019, and this motion was not filed until September 26, 2019. Even if the Court were to begin counting the 60 days with the date of service of the Court’s ruling on Defendant’s motion to set aside or vacate the default – June 28, 2019 – the motion would still be untimely.

Nevertheless, given that the Court has discretion to extend this time limit for good cause, the Court will consider Plaintiff’s motion.

The next question, then, is which fees Plaintiff may recover based on the fee provision in the settlement agreement.

A settlement agreement is a contract governed by standard rules of contract interpretation. (Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church v. All World Mission Ministries (2012) 211 Cal.App.4th 1115, 1123.) Thus, the Court must use ordinary rules of contract interpretation to determine what fees are covered by the parties’ agreement that “[i]n the event of any dispute under or be [sic] reason of this agreement, the prevailing party in any such dispute shall be entitled to reimbursement for his actual attorney’s fees, if reasonable, and all other costs of litigation actually, but necessarily, incurred, including fees and costs incurred.”

In the context of arbitration agreements, another context in which courts apply ordinary rules of contract interpretation,[1] courts interpret the phrase “arising under or related to” more broadly than “arising from” or “arising out of”:

Clauses providing for arbitration of disputes “‘arising from’” or “‘arising out of’” an agreement have generally been interpreted to apply only to disputes regarding the interpretation and performance of the agreement. (Id. at pp. 186–187; see Elijahjuan v. Superior Court (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 15, 20–21 [147 Cal. Rptr. 3d 857] [arbitration provision applicable to any dispute that “‘arises with regard to [the Agreements’] application or interpretation’” did not cover alleged employees' misclassification claims, which were based on Lab. Code violations].) On the other hand, arbitration clauses (like the one in this case) that use the phrase “arising under or related to” (italics added) have been construed more broadly. (See Larkin v. Williams, Woolley, Cogswell, Nakazawa & Russell (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 227, 229 [90 Cal.Rptr.2d 195] [arbitration clause covering “‘[a]ny controversy or claim arising out of or relating to any provision of this [partnership] [a]greement or the breach thereof’” covered dispute as to partnership dissolution]; Dream Theater, Inc. v. Dream Theater (2004) 124 Cal.App.4th 547, 553, fn. 1 [21 Cal. Rptr. 3d 322] [“any claim arising out of or relating to … ‘is very broad’”]; Khalatian, supra, 237 Cal.App.4th at pp. 659–660 [arbitration agreement covering “‘any controversy or claim between the parties arising out of or relating to this Agreement’” was broad and covered alleged employees' statutory misclassification claims].) For a party's claims to come within the scope of such a clause, the factual allegations of the complaint “need only ‘touch matters’ covered by the contract containing the arbitration clause.” (Simula, Inc. v. Autoliv, Inc. (9th Cir. 1999) 175 F.3d 716, 721 [arbitration clause  containing phrase “‘arising in connection with’ reaches every dispute between the parties having a significant relationship to the contract and all disputes having their origin or genesis in the contract”]; see Rice v. Downs, at p. 186 [same].)

(Ramos v. Superior Court (2018) 28 Cal.App.5th 1042, 1051-52 (bold emphasis and underlining added).)

Here, the phrase “under or [by] reason of” is akin to the phrase “arising under or related to,” and therefore the scope of the provision may be interpreted broadly. Adopting this broad interpretation, Plaintiffs may recover fees that relate to their causes of action for quiet title and cancellation of instruments – to the extent that those fees relate to Defendant Candido Ramirez, as discussed below.

The determination of reasonable amount of attorney’s fees is within the sound discretion of trial courts. (PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095; Akins v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 1127, 1134.) “The determination of what constitutes a reasonable fee generally ‘begins with the ‘lodestar,’ i.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate . . . .’” (Graciano v. Robinson Ford Sales, Inc. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 140, 154.) “[T]he 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….” (Ibid.) In setting the hourly rate for a fee award, courts are entitled to consider the “fees customarily charged by that attorney and others in the community for similar work.” (Bihun v. AT&T Info. Sys., Inc. (1993) 13 Cal.App.4th 976, 997 [affirming rate of $450 per hour], overruled on other grounds by Lakin v. Watkins Associated Indus. (1993) 6 Cal.4th 644, 664.) The burden is on the party seeking attorney’s fees to prove the reasonableness of the fees. (Center for Biological Diversity v. County of San Bernardino (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 603, 615.)

The Court has broad discretion in determining the amount of a reasonable attorney’s fee award, which will not be overturned absent a “manifest abuse of discretion, a prejudicial error of law, or necessary findings not supported by substantial evidence.” (Bernardi v. County of Monterey (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1379, 1393-1394.) The Court need not explain its calculation of the amount of attorney’s fees awarded in detail; identifying the factors considered in arriving at the amount will suffice. (Ventura v. ABM Indus. Inc. (2012) 212 Cal.App.4th 258, 274-275.)

Here, the Court finds that counsel’s hourly rates of $450 to $580 and a paralegal hourly rate of $160 are reasonable, with the understanding that attorneys who charge these rates for their level of experience are expected to perform their work efficiently. (Kramer Decl. ¶¶ 8, 9.)

However, to be frank, this Court was somewhat shocked at the seemingly-excessive amounts claimed by Plaintiff’s counsel in past attorney’s fees – a staggering $120,648 based upon 287 hours of attorney and paralegal work. (Motion for Attorney’s Fees, 10: 16-17.)[2]

It is well established that a trial court has the discretion to deny a request for attorney’s fees altogether, even though it may be required by law, whenever the request for attorney’s fees is grossly excessive and/or shocks the conscience of the court

“A fee request that appears unreasonably inflated is a special circumstance permitting the trial court to reduce the award or deny one altogether.” (Serrano v. Unruh (1982) 32 Cal.3d 621, 635 [186 Cal. Rptr. 754, 652 P.2d 985]; accord, Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1137 [104 Cal. Rptr. 2d 377, 17 P.3d 735].)  

Chavez v. City of Los Angeles

Although counsel’s rates are reasonable, Plaintiffs are seeking fees that are unrelated to Defendant Candido Ramirez. For example, Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants filed six motions to set aside the default, when the Court’s previous ruling as to this Defendant – which Plaintiffs quote – found that he had moved to set aside the default three times, and that the third time was “not the charm.” (Ruling, 6/27/19, at p. 1.) Plaintiffs seek fees for example, related to a hearing on a motion to set aside the default on January 10, 2019, in which the moving parties were Defendants Marcel Padilla and Ramon Pereira, not Candido Ramirez.

Moreover, the amount of hours claimed for opposing these motions are borderline absurd. Be that as it may, this Court feels that a reasonable fee is warranted in this case, under the totality of the circumstances.[3]

Utilizing a lodestar approach, and in view of the totality of the circumstances, the Court finds that the total and reasonable amount of attorney’s fees incurred for the work performed on behalf of Plaintiff on those tasks related to Candido Ramirez is $24,000. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees is GRANTED in the amount of $24,000.

Moving party to give notice, unless waived.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Dated: November 19, 2019 ___________________________________

Randolph M. Hammock

Judge of the Superior Court

Any party may submit on the tentative ruling by contacting the courtroom via email at Smcdept47@lacourt.org by no later than 4:00 p.m. the day before the hearing.  All interested parties must be copied on the email.  It should be noted that if you submit on a tentative ruling the court will still conduct a hearing if any party appears. By submitting on the tentative you have, in essence, waived your right to be present at the hearing, and you should be aware that the court may not adopt the tentative, and may issue an order which modifies the tentative ruling in whole or in part.


[1] (See, e.g., Rice v. Downs (2016) 248 Cal.App.4th 175, 185 [“The ordinary rules of contract interpretation apply to arbitration agreements.”].)

[2] Indeed, this Court suspects that less attorney time has been spent in defending a death penalty case.

[3] Indeed, under the local rules, attorney’s fees are typically award per schedule, based upon the monetary amounts obtained in the default judgment. LASC Local Rule 3.214. However, as noted by the Plaintiff in his moving papers, he was unable to obtain any monetary recovery due to the insufficiency of his Complaint, per Dwahan v. Biring (2015) 241 Cal.App. 4th 963.