On 07/19/2017 MES INVESTMENTS, LLC filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against DADSON WASHER SERVICE, INC. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are NANCY L. NEWMAN and MITCHELL L. BECKLOFF. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
NANCY L. NEWMAN
MITCHELL L. BECKLOFF
MES INVESTMENTS LLC
DADSON WASHER SERVICE INC.
STEIN JAY R.
STEIN JAY ROLAND
STARK PATRICK J.
STARK PATRICK JOHN
11/2/2017: Case Management Statement
8/6/2018: Request for Judicial Notice
8/6/2018: Witness List
8/6/2018: Witness List
10/22/2018: Minute Order
12/28/2018: Minute Order
2/7/2019: Minute Order
5/24/2019: Memorandum of Costs (Summary)
Memorandum (Memorandum of Costs (Worksheet)); Filed by DADSON WASHER SERVICE, INC. (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Notice (Notice of Entry of Judgment); Filed by DADSON WASHER SERVICE, INC. (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Memorandum of Costs (Summary); Filed by DADSON WASHER SERVICE, INC. (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Appeal - Reporter Appeal Transcript Process Fee Paid; Filed by MES INVESTMENTS, LLC (Appellant)Read MoreRead Less
Appeal - Ntc Designating Record of Appeal APP-003/010/103; Filed by MES INVESTMENTS, LLC (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Appeal - Notice of Filing of Notice of Appeal (for Notice of Appeal, filed 5/13/19); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Appeal - Notice of Appeal/Cross Appeal Filed; Filed by MES INVESTMENTS, LLC (Appellant)Read MoreRead Less
Judgment (- Court Finding - After Court Trial - 03/11/2019 entered for Defendant DADSON WASHER SERVICE, INC. against Plaintiff MES INVESTMENTS, LLC.); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Objection (Object to Proposed Judgment); Filed by MES INVESTMENTS, LLC (Plaintiff); DADSON WASHER SERVICE, INC. (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
at 10:10 AM in Department 86; Court OrderRead MoreRead Less
Minute order entered: 2017-08-03 00:00:00; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Affidavit of Prejudice - Challenge; Filed by MES INVESTMENTS, LLC (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Affidavit of Prejudice - Challange (170.6 ); Filed by Attorney for PlaintiffRead MoreRead Less
Proof-Service/Summons; Filed by MES INVESTMENTS, LLC (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Proof-Service/Summons; Filed by Attorney for PlaintiffRead MoreRead Less
Civil Case Cover SheetRead MoreRead Less
Complaint; Filed by MES INVESTMENTS, LLC (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Summons Filed; Filed by Attorney for PlaintiffRead MoreRead Less
Complaint FiledRead MoreRead Less
Summons; Filed by PlaintiffRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: SC127829 Hearing Date: March 03, 2021 Dept: 86
MES INVESTMENTS, LLC v. DADSON WASHER SERVICE, INC.
Case Number: SC127829
Hearing Date: March 3, 2021
[Tentative] ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES ON APPEAL
Defendant, Dadson Washer Service, Inc., moves the court for an award of attorney’s fees for post-judgment attorney services related to appellate proceedings. Defendant seeks the award pursuant to Civil Code section 1717. The total amount as and for attorney’s fees sought is $29,700. The amount sought represents 59.4 hours of attorney services at $500 per hour.
Plaintiff, MES Investments, LLC, opposes Defendant’s motion. Plaintiff “does not contest [Defendant] is entitled to reasonable attorney fees as it prevailed on appeal and by contract, the prevailing party is entitled to reasonable attorney fees.” (Opposition 1:4-6.) Plaintiff does not dispute the number of hours expended by Defendant’s counsel for services related to the appeal. Instead, Plaintiff contends Defendant’s counsel’s hourly rate must be reduced from $500 per hour to $250 per hour. Plaintiff contends the reasonable value of the services provided by Defendant’s counsel is $14,850. (That is 59.4 hours at $250 per hour.)
The motion is GRANTED in the amount of $14,850.
Code of Civil Procedure “Section 1032 is the fundamental authority for awarding costs in civil actions. It establishes the general rule that ‘[e]xcept as otherwise expressly provided by statute, a prevailing party is entitled as a matter of right to recover costs in any action or proceeding.’ ” (Scott Co. v. Blount, Inc. (1999) 20 Cal.4th 1103, 1108.) “Code of Civil Procedure section 1033.5 provides, in subdivision (a)(10), that attorney fees are ‘allowable as costs under Section 1032’ when they are ‘authorized by’ either ‘Contract,’ ‘Statute,’ or ‘Law.’ Thus, recoverable litigation costs do include attorney fees, but only when the party entitled to costs has a legal basis, independent of the cost statutes and grounded in an agreement, statute, or other law, upon which to claim recovery of attorney fees.” (Santisas v. Goodin (1998) 17 Cal.4th 599, 606.) “Attorney's fees awarded pursuant to Section 1717 of the Civil Code are allowable costs under Section 1032 as authorized by subparagraph (A) of paragraph (10) of subdivision (a).” (Code Civ. Proc. § 1033.5, subd. (c)(5)(B).)
Civil Code section 1717 provides in pertinent part: “(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. [¶] . . . [¶] (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.”
As noted, Plaintiff does not challenge Defendant’s entitlement to fees or the number of hours expended. The sole issue is the hourly rate charged by Defendant’s counsel. Defendant’s counsel seeks compensation at the rate of $500 per hour. Plaintiff contends Defendant’s counsel’s hourly rate should be limited to $250 per hour.
When assessing the amount of any attorneys’ fee award, courts typically determine what is reasonable through the application of the “lodestar” method with adjustments for those hours and rates that are reasonable given the expertise of counsel and difficulty of the matter presented. (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1136; see also Mann v. Quality Old Time Service, Inc. (2006) 139 Cal.App.4th 328, 342 [concerning apportionment of fees for partially successful actions].)
Under the lodestar method, a base amount is calculated from a compilation of (1) time reasonably spent and (2) the reasonable hourly compensation of each attorney. (Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20 Cal.3d 25, 48; see also Meister v. Regents of University of California (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 437, 448-449.)
Normally, a “reasonable” hourly rate is the prevailing rate charged by attorneys of similar skill and experience in the relevant community. (PLCM Group, Inc. v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095.) That amount may then be adjusted through the consideration of various factors, including “(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, supra, 24 Cal.4th at 1132.) The Court is vested with discretion to determine which claimed hours were reasonably spent, and an attorney’s reasonable hourly rate. (Dover Mobile Estates v. Fiber Form Products, Inc. (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1494, 1501; see also Flannery v. California Highway Patrol (1987) 61 Cal.App.4th 629, 644. [“We readily acknowledge the discretion of the trial judge to determine the value of professional services rendered in his or her court.”])
On October 4, 2019, in connection with services provided by Defendant’s counsel in this court, the court found $250 per hour to be a reasonable hourly rate. At that time, the court awarded Defendant $11,325 as and for its reasonable attorney’s fees as the prevailing party.
In support of this motion, Defendant submitted the declaration of its counsel, Ms. Darrow. After a brief recitation of the procedural history of the action, Ms. Darrow attests her “hourly rate was $500.00” “[f]or the appellate work in this matter.” (Darrow Decl., ¶ 4.) Ms. Darrow reports the “rate is consistent with litigation attorneys practicing appellate law in Los Angeles County, with the same amount of experience as me.” (Darrow Decl., ¶ 4.) Ms. Darrow has “significant experience as a litigation attorney,” and for clients other than Defendant, her hourly rate is $350. (Darrow Decl., ¶ 4.) Ms. Darrow explains, “Given the importance of appellate level work, and the long-ranging implications of an opinion favorable (or unfavorable) to [Defendant], my hourly fee for appellate work is higher.” (Darrow Decl., ¶ 4.) The issue concerning the application of Civil Code section 1945.5 to the types of leases Defendant uses “has gone without a precedential court opinion for decades . . . ” and is an important issue to Defendant. (Darrow Decl., ¶ 4.)
Ms. Darrow attests appellate attorneys in Los Angeles “routinely charge $500 or more for appellate work.” (Darrow Decl., ¶ 4.) She advises, John Derrick, an appellate specialist charges a flat rate ranging from $25,000 to $75,000 for appeals. (Darrow Decl., ¶ 4.) Ms. Darrow also reports a court approved hourly rates for attorneys, Richard Rothschild and Vanessa Lee, of $730 and $500 in an unrelated Los Angeles Superior Court Case (No. BS135127) in 2014. (Darrow Decl., ¶ 4.) Ms. Darrow attests:
“My rates are also comparable to the local rates set forth in the Declaration of Richard M. Pearl in Support of Motion for Attorneys’ Fees in case no. BC391869 (lead case no. BC325201), which set forth some standard local rates as of 2016. My hourly rate was lower than rates charged by numerous law firms cited.” (Darrow Decl., ¶ 4.)
Plaintiff’s opposition to the motion is well taken:
“Counsel wants to double the hourly rate paid by [her client] based upon a purported expertise that she claims she has concerning appellate work. Based upon the hearsay descriptions and argument presented in Ms. Darrow’s Declaration, Paragraph 4, Counsel asserts that she has the equivalent expertise of other appellate experts referenced by the mere representation of length of practice and other attorney fee awards. Other than Ms. Darrow[‘s] appellate activity in this case, her Declaration is devoid of any other appellate services she has rendered.” (Opposition 3:13.)
Additionally, Plaintiff provides evidence Defendant’s counsel has “been involved” in one other appellate matter in addition to this one. From the register of actions in that matter, it appears Defendant’s counsel filed the opening brief. Her co-counsel filed the reply and participated in oral argument.
On reply, Defendant does not address the evidence Plaintiff provided concerning Defendant’s counsel’s appellate experience. Defendant notes, “The ‘experienced trial judge is the best judge of the value of professional services rendered in his court. . . . ’ ” (Sommers v. Erb (1992) 2 Cal.App.4th 1644, 1651 [citation omitted].) (Reply 1-2.) Of course, this trial court judge did not observe any of the services provided by Defendant’s counsel for post-judgment work. Neither party submitted the appellate briefs for consideration by this court.
Finally, in its reply argument, Defendant notes it is seeking only the “actual amount it was billed for services . . . .” (Reply 2:13.)
Defendant bears the burden of demonstrating the reasonable hourly rate to which its counsel is entitled. On the evidence presented, the court cannot find a reasonable fee for Defendant’s counsel’s post-judgment and appellate services is $500 per hour. The only evidence before the court is the amount (allegedly) charged by an (alleged) appellate specialist of a flat fee between $25,000 and $75,000. Such evidence in a vacuum does not meet Defendant’s burden on this motion. The other evidence provided by Defendant concerning hourly rates did not concern appellate services. Moreover, Defendant has provided no evidence concerning “(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, supra, 24 Cal.4th at 1132.)
The court also has no copies of work submitted to the appellate court or recordings of the oral argument from which it could attempt to determine an appropriate hourly rate for Defendant’s counsel.
Based on the foregoing, the court finds Defendant is entitled to an award of attorney’s fees for 59.4 hours of services provided. The hourly rate the court finds Defendant’s counsel’s reasonable hourly rate on this record—consistent with its prior finding—is $250.
For the foregoing reasons, the motion for attorneys’ fees is granted in the amount of $14,850.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
March 3, 2021 ________________________________
Hon. Mitchell Beckloff
Judge of the Superior Court
[Additionally, the court requests the parties meet and confer regarding Plaintiff’s pending motion to tax costs. While that matter is not before the court today, in an effort to avoid another court appearance by the parties, it seems reasonably likely the matter could be resolved. The court notes Nelson v. Anderson (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 111, 131 does not support Plaintiff’s position on the motion. The case provides, “The court’s first determination, therefore, is whether the statute expressly allows the particular item, and whether it appears proper on its face. [Citation.] If so, the burden is on the objecting party to show them to be unnecessary or unreasonable.” Defendant was not required to submit receipts and charts to support its memorandum of costs.]
 While the body of Plaintiff’s opposition does argue the “reasonableness of the time required for the services” cannot be determined (Opposition 2:21), ultimately Plaintiff concedes the number of hours expended was reasonable at a $250 hourly rate.
 The court could not locate the declaration for this unrelated case in its electronic files.
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