This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 11/08/2019 at 22:06:10 (UTC).

MIORIAM AVELAR ARVIZU VS AMMADIS INC ET AL

Case Summary

On 10/11/2017 MIORIAM AVELAR ARVIZU filed a Labor - Wrongful Termination lawsuit against AMMADIS 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 TERESA A. BEAUDET and DANIEL J. BUCKLEY. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****9015

  • Filing Date:

    10/11/2017

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Labor - Wrongful Termination

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

TERESA A. BEAUDET

DANIEL J. BUCKLEY

 

Party Details

Plaintiff

ARVIZU MIRIAM AVELAR

Defendants

MIORIN GASTON

CINGULAR GROCERS

CINGULAR HR

AMMADIS INC DBA GAUCHO GRILL

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorneys

RUIZ BRANDON K

HENNIG ROBERT ALAN

BOYAJIAN ERIC ALBERT

Defendant Attorneys

STRANGE GORDON CHESTER

DECKER ALYSON CLAIRE

 

Court Documents

Order - ORDER PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO VACATE DISMISSAL

8/13/2019: Order - ORDER PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO VACATE DISMISSAL

Substitution of Attorney

11/1/2019: Substitution of Attorney

Substitution of Attorney

11/1/2019: Substitution of Attorney

Substitution of Attorney

11/7/2019: Substitution of Attorney

Motion to Set Aside/Vacate Dismissal

6/14/2019: Motion to Set Aside/Vacate Dismissal

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION TO SET ASIDE/VACATE DISMISSAL (CCP 473))

8/12/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION TO SET ASIDE/VACATE DISMISSAL (CCP 473))

Notice of Ruling

8/12/2019: Notice of Ruling

Minute Order -

2/5/2018: Minute Order -

ANSWER OF DEFENDANTS AMMADIS, INC., DBA GAUCHO GRILL AND GASTON MIORIN, AN INDIVIDUAL, TO PLAINTIFF'S UNVERIFIED COMPLAINT

2/23/2018: ANSWER OF DEFENDANTS AMMADIS, INC., DBA GAUCHO GRILL AND GASTON MIORIN, AN INDIVIDUAL, TO PLAINTIFF'S UNVERIFIED COMPLAINT

Minute Order -

3/5/2018: Minute Order -

Proof of Service -

5/1/2018: Proof of Service -

SEPARATE STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES AND PRODUCTION DEMANDS AND REQUEST FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS

5/1/2018: SEPARATE STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES AND PRODUCTION DEMANDS AND REQUEST FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS

PLAINTIFF'S NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES AND PRODUCTION DEMANDS AND REQUEST FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS

5/1/2018: PLAINTIFF'S NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES AND PRODUCTION DEMANDS AND REQUEST FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS

DECLARATION OF AMARAS ZARGARIAN IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES AND PRODUCTION DEMANDS AND REQUEST FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS

5/1/2018: DECLARATION OF AMARAS ZARGARIAN IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES AND PRODUCTION DEMANDS AND REQUEST FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS

REQUEST FOR DISMISSAL -

5/9/2018: REQUEST FOR DISMISSAL -

SEPARATE STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT AMMADIS, INC.'S MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN OPPOSITIONTO PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER ; ETC

5/10/2018: SEPARATE STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT AMMADIS, INC.'S MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN OPPOSITIONTO PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER ; ETC

DECLARATION OF GORDON C. STRANGE IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT AMMADIS, INC.'S MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES AND PRO

5/10/2018: DECLARATION OF GORDON C. STRANGE IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT AMMADIS, INC.'S MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES AND PRO

DEFENDANT AMMADIS, INC'S MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITLES IN OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES; ETC

5/10/2018: DEFENDANT AMMADIS, INC'S MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITLES IN OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES; ETC

188 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 12/09/2019
  • Hearing12/09/2019 at 08:30 AM in Department 50 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Non-Appearance Case Review

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  • 11/07/2019
  • DocketSubstitution of Attorney; Filed by AMMADIS INC (Defendant)

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  • 11/01/2019
  • DocketSubstitution of Attorney; Filed by CINGULAR HR (Defendant)

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  • 11/01/2019
  • DocketSubstitution of Attorney; Filed by CINGULAR GROCERS (Defendant)

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  • 10/16/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Quash (PLAINTIFF MIRIAM AVELAR ARVIZU?S NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO QUASH TRIAL SUBPOENAS AND FOR SANCTIONS IN THE AMOUNT OF $3,660.00; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT THEREOF; DECLARTION OF BRANDON RUIZ IN SUPPORT THEREOF) - Held - Continued

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  • 08/13/2019
  • DocketOrder (Plaintiff's Motion to Vacate Dismissal)

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  • 08/12/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Set Aside/Vacate Dismissal (CCP 473) - Held

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  • 08/12/2019
  • DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by MIRIAM AVELAR ARVIZU (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/12/2019
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Motion to Set Aside/Vacate Dismissal (CCP 473))); Filed by Clerk

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  • 07/29/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Hearing on Motion for Sanctions - Not Held - Vacated by Court

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280 More Docket Entries
  • 11/20/2017
  • DocketProof-Service/Summons; Filed by MIRIAM AVELAR ARVIZU (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/31/2017
  • DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

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  • 10/31/2017
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 10/23/2017
  • DocketNotice of Change of Address or Other Contact Information; Filed by MIRIAM AVELAR ARVIZU (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/23/2017
  • DocketNOTICE OF CHANGE OF ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBERS OF THE LAW OFFICES OF ERIC A. BOYAJIAN

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  • 10/19/2017
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 10/19/2017
  • DocketProof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by MIRIAM AVELAR ARVIZU (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/11/2017
  • DocketSUMMONS

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  • 10/11/2017
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by MIRIAM AVELAR ARVIZU (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/11/2017
  • DocketCOMPLAINT FOR: 1. SEXUAL HARASSMENT; ETC

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: ****9015 Hearing Date: April 11, 2022 Dept: 50

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 50

miriam avelar arvizu,

Plaintiff,

vs.

ammadis, inc., et al.,

Defendants.

Case No.:

BC 679015

Hearing Date:

April 11, 2022

Hearing Time:

10:00 a.m.

[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE:

PLAINTIFF MIRIAM AVELAR ARVIZU’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES

Background

Plaintiff Miriam Avelar Arvizu (“Plaintiff”) filed the instant action on October 11, 2017 against Defendants Ammadis, Inc. dba Gaucho Grill (“Ammadis”) and Gaston Miorin. Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) on July 12, 2018 against Ammadis, Miorin, Cingular Grocers, and Cingular HR. The FAC asserts causes of action for (1) sexual harassment, (2) gender discrimination, (3) retaliation, (4) disability discrimination, (5) failure to provide a reasonable accommodation, (6) failure to engage in the interactive process, (7) failure to prevent harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, (8) wrongful termination, and (9) failure to provide payroll records.

On July 30, 2021, Plaintiff served Defendants Ammadis, Cingular Grocers, and Cingular HR (collectively, “Defendants”) with an offer to compromise pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 998 in the amount of $100,000.00, with attorneys’ fees and costs to be decided by motion or as otherwise stipulated by the parties. (Ruiz Decl., 4, Ex. 1.) The offer was accepted on July 30, 2021. (Ibid.)

Plaintiff moves for an award of attorneys’ fees in the total amount of $602,533.40 against Defendants, which includes $430,381.00 as the lodestar and $172,152.40 for a multiplier of 1.4.[1] Defendants oppose.

Request for Judicial Notice

The Court grants Plaintiff’s request for judicial notice.

Evidentiary Objections

The Court rules on Plaintiff’s evidentiary objections to the Jardini Declaration as follows:

Objection 1: overruled

Objection 2: overruled

Objection 3: sustained as to “could,” overruled as to the remainder

Objection 4 (misnumbered as “5”): overruled

Objection 5 (misnumbered as “6”): sustained as to the first three sentences of paragraph 70, the first sentence of paragraph 71, paragraph 72 and the second sentence of paragraph 71; overruled as to the remainder.

Discussion

A trial court has discretion to award attorney’s fees and costs to the party prevailing in a FEHA action.” (Steele v. Jensen Instrument Co. (1997) 59 Cal.App.4th 326, 331.) Government Code section 12965(c)(6) provides in pertinent part that “[i]n civil actions brought under this section, the court, in its discretion, may award to the prevailing party, including the department, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, including expert witness fees.” “In FEHA actions, the discretion to deny a fee award to a prevailing plaintiff is narrow. A prevailing plaintiff should ordinarily recover an attorney’s fee unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust.(Steele v. Jensen Instrument Co., supra, at p. 331 [internal quotations and citations omitted].)

“[T]he fee setting inquiry in California ordinarily begins with the ‘lodestar,’ i.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate. … The reasonable hourly rate is that prevailing in the community for similar work. 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.” (PLCM Group, Inc. v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095 [internal citations omitted]; see also Flannery v. Prentice (2001) 26 Cal.4th 572, 584, “[p]ursuant to long-established precedent and practice, section 12965 fees are calculated by determining the number of hours reasonably worked by the attorneys who prosecuted the matter and multiplying that number by the reasonable hourly rate those attorneys should receive for such work. Depending on the circumstances, consideration may also be given to the attorneys’ experience, the difficulty of the issues presented, the risk incurred by the attorneys in litigating the case, the quality of work performed by the attorneys, and the result the attorneys achieved.”)

The Hourly Rate of Counsel

“The courts repeatedly have stated that the trial court is in the best position to value the services rendered by the attorneys in his or her courtroom, and this includes the determination of the hourly rate that will be used in the lodestar calculus.” (569 East County Boulevard LLC v. Backcountry Against the Dump, Inc. (2016) 6 Cal.App.5th 426, 436-437 [internal citations omitted].) “In making its calculation, the court may rely on its own knowledge and familiarity with the legal market, as well as the experience, skill, and reputation of the attorney requesting fees . . . .” (Id. at p. 437.)

Plaintiff requests a lodestar total of $430,381.00, which includes $204,151.00 for work performed by Hennig Ruiz & Singh, P.C., and $226,230.00 for work performed by Law Offices of Eric A. Boyajian, APC. From January 2019 through the present, Hennig Ruiz & Singh, P.C billed 260.8 hours for services rendered. (Ruiz Decl., 9, 17, Exs. 7, 8; Henning Decl., 68, Ex. 6.) From July 2017 through the present, Law Offices of Eric A. Boyajian, APC billed 360.6 hours for services rendered. (Boyajian Decl., 26, Ex. 13.)

Plaintiff requests applicable hourly billing rates ranging from $240 to $995 for Hennig Ruiz & Singh, P.C.’s counsel and paralegal as follows: Amber Alsamman, $240/per hour, Brandon Ruiz, $780/hour, Rob Hennig, $995/hour. (Ruiz Decl., 9, 29, Hennig Decl., 15, 66.) Plaintiff requests applicable hourly billing rates ranging from $450 to $750 for Law Offices of Eric A. Boyajian, APC’s counsel as follows: Amaras Zargarian, $450/hour and Eric Boyajian, $750/hour. (Boyajian Decl., 13, 24.)

Defendants assert that the hourly rates sought are unreasonable and should be reduced. In support of their opposition to the motion, Defendants submit the Declaration of Andre E. Jardini. Mr. Jardini was retained to present an analysis of the reasonableness of attorneys’ fees incurred by Hennig Ruiz & Singh, P.C. and Law Offices of Eric A. Boyajian, APC in the instant matter. (Jardini Decl., 1.) Mr. Jardini is the founder and president of KPC Legal Audit Services, Inc. (Jardini Decl., 11.)

Mr. Jardini relied on the methodology of calculation and benchmarking hourly rates

in the USAO Attorney’s Fees Matrix (“USAO Matrix”), and asserts that an important aspect of using the USAO Matrix in California, and previously the Laffey Matrix, is to adjust for appropriate hourly rates in this Court’s jurisdiction. (Jardini Decl., 34, 36, Ex. 4.) Mr. Jardini asserts that Mr. Hennig qualifies for reimbursement based on a locally adjusted USAO Matrix rate (for the Los Angeles area) at approximately $675 an hour, that the USAO hourly adjusted rate applicable to Mr. Boyajian is $600, and that the reasonable hourly rate reimbursement for Mr. Ruiz and Mr. Zargarian are $540 and $459, respectively. (Jardini Decl., 37.) Defendants assert that using the USAO hourly rates, the hourly rates requested by Plaintiff’s counsel should be reduced by 22%, bringing the average hourly rate down to $539.93 from $692.60. (Jardini Decl., 38-39.)

In the reply, Plaintiff asserts that since the hourly rates in the Laffey Matrix were established for D.C. Lawyers, these rates should be adjusted upward 4.6% to reflect the current rates typical of attorneys litigating within California. (Reply at p. 4:2-4.) In support of this assertion, Plaintiff cites a non-binding federal opinion. Moreover, Defendants assert that the USAO Matrix should be utilized, not the Laffey Matrix, and Plaintiff does not argue in the reply that Defendants’ reliance on the USAO Matrix is improper. Plaintiff also argues that Mr. Jardini has relied on the Laffey Matrix for his own fee motions, which discredits his opinion. (Reply at p. 4:10-12, citing to 2012 and 2011 Declarations of Mr. Jardini attached as Exhibits 1 and 2 to Plaintiff’s RJN.) But in his declaration in support of Defendant’s opposition to the instant motion, Mr. Jardini asserts that some courts are declining use of the adjusted Laffey Matrix because it is not geographically specific enough when calculating hourly rates. (Jardini Decl., 35.)

Plaintiff also asserts that her motion separately accounts for each attorney’s hours and rates, rendering any reference to blended or average rates improper. In support of this assertion Plaintiff cites to a non-binding federal case, as well as Municipal Court v. Bloodgood (1982) 137 Cal.App.3d 29. In Bloodgood, the Court of Appeal found that “[w]here several attorneys file a joint petition for fees, the court may find it necessary to use several different rates for the different attorneys,” not that a Court may not consider average rates. (Id. at p. 47, emphasis added.)

Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that an average hourly rate of $539.93 is reasonable. As set forth above, Plaintiff’s counsel assert that they billed a total of 621.4 hours for services rendered. 621.4 hours at $539.93/hour equals $335,512.50. Thus, the Court deducts $94,868.50 from the lodestar total ($430,381.00) requested by Plaintiff.

Lodestar Multiplier

While the lodestar reflects the basic fee for comparable legal services in the community, it may be adjusted based on various factors, including “(1) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill displayed in presenting them; (2) the extent to which the nature of the litigation precluded other employment by the attorneys; (3) the contingent nature of the fee award” and (4) the success achieved. (Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20 Cal.3d 25, 49.)

Here, Plaintiff argues that a 1.4 lodestar multiplier is appropriate because of (1) the

contingency fee nature of the case, (2) the delay in receipt of payment, and (3) the need to further the public policy of the State of California in encouraging good counsel to take FEHA cases such

as this one. Defendants counter that Plaintiff has not established valid grounds for the application of a multiplier.

As to the contingency fee nature of the case, Plaintiff cites to Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1138, in which the California Supreme Court noted that “the purpose of a fee enhancement is primarily to compensate the attorney for the prevailing party at a rate reflecting the risk of nonpayment in contingency cases as a class.” Plaintiff asserts that in this case, the risk of nonpayment was real as the parties’ original settlement was not executed, and it appeared that Defendants were set on taking this case to trial. (Boyajian Decl., 8, 9.) However, Defendants note that the Ketchum Court also provides that:

“[o]f course, the trial court is not required to include a fee enhancement to the basic lodestar figure for contingent risk, exceptional skill, or other factors, although it retains discretion to do so in the appropriate case…We emphasize that when determining the appropriate enhancement, a trial court should not consider these factors to the extent they are already encompassed within the lodestar. The factor of extraordinary skill, in particular, appears susceptible to improper double counting; for the most part, the difficulty of a legal question and the quality of representation are already encompassed in the lodestar. A more difficult legal question typically requires more attorney hours, and a more skillful and experienced attorney will command a higher hourly rate. Indeed, the reasonable hourly rate [used to calculate the lodestar] is the product of a multiplicity of factors ... the level of skill necessary, time limitations, the amount to be obtained in the litigation, the attorney’s reputation, and the undesirability of the case. Thus, a trial court should award a multiplier for exceptional representation only when the quality of representation far exceeds the quality of representation that would have been provided by an attorney of comparable skill and experience billing at the hourly rate used in the lodestar calculation. Otherwise, the fee award will result in unfair double counting and be unreasonable. (Ketchum v. Moses, supra, 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1138–39 [internal quotations and citations omitted, emphasis in original].)

Defendants assert that the instant action is an individual unlawful termination and discrimination case and not a class action that did not present any novel or difficult issues, and that the case did not require a high level of skill of Plaintiff’s counsel. The Court agrees. Plaintiff’s counsel asserts that a multiplier is warranted because they were pursuing emotional distress damages for a person who has severe pre-existing emotional distress issues, and because Plaintiff’s counsel had tremendous client-management issues. (Reply at pp. 8:25-9:1; 9:18-22.) But Plaintiff does not cite to any legal authority indicating that such circumstances warrant a multiplier.

Plaintiff also cites to Amaral v. Cintas Corp. No. 2 (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 1157, 1217–1218, in which the Court of Appeal found that, “[o]ur courts have recognized that an enhanced fee award is necessary to compensate attorneys for taking such risks: A contingent fee must be higher than a fee for the same legal services paid as they are performed. The contingent fee compensates the lawyer not only for the legal services he renders but for the loan of those services....A lawyer who both bears the risk of not being paid and provides legal services is not receiving the fair market value of his work if he is paid only for the second of these functions. If he is paid no more, competent counsel will be reluctant to accept fee award cases.” (Internal quotations and citations omitted.) Plaintiff’s counsel assert that their commitment to this case had an impact on their ability to do other work as Mr. Ruiz is a partner of a twelve-attorney law firm, and Mr. Boyajian is the managing attorney of a two attorney firm. (Ruiz Decl., 23; Boyajian Decl., 26.) Defendants assert that Amaral v. Cintas Corp. No. 2 is distinguishable because it is a class action case, and point out that the Court of Appeal found that “in addition to contingent risk, the trial court based the multiplier on other appropriate factors that [defendant] does not challenge, such as the novelty and difficulty of the issues presented and the skill and efficiency of class counsel.” (Amaral v. Cintas Corp. No. 2, supra, 163 Cal.App.4th 1157, 1218.) Defendants also assert that Plaintiff’s claim that the instant case precluded both firms from taking on additional work is unfounded. Defendants assert that the firms each worked 200-300 hours over a four-year period, and that there were 30 months where work was performed. (Jardini Decl., 73.) Defendants contend that during over 40% of the months that this litigation was pending, Plaintiff’s attorneys were performing little or no work, and for those months where work was performed, more than 50% had less than 10 hours per month. (Jardini Decl., 73.) Defendants further assert that they tallied only eight out of 51 months, or 16% of the entire litigation time, where over 20 hours were billed in one month. (Jardini Decl., 73.) In the reply, Plaintiff acknowledges that “[o]f course, Plaintiff’s Counsel worked on other cases.” (Reply. at p. 8:10-11)

Plaintiff also asserts that a delay in payment, over several years, is present here as well. Plaintiff notes that Law Offices of Eric A. Boyajian, APC began its representation of Plaintiff in April of 2017. (Boyajian Decl., 2.) Hennig Ruiz & Singh, P.C. entered the case in or around February of 2019 for purposes of assisting Law Offices of Eric A. Boyajian, APC in this matter. (Ruiz Decl., 3.) The adjustment to the lodestar figure, e.g., to provide a fee enhancement reflecting the risk that the attorney will not receive payment if the suit does not succeed, constitutes earned compensation; unlike a windfall, it is neither unexpected nor fortuitous. Rather, it is intended to approximate market-level compensation for such services, which typically includes a premium for the risk of nonpayment or delay in payment of attorney fees.” (Ketchum v. Moses, supra, 24 Cal.4th at p. 1138, emphasis added.) Defendants argue that if an upwards multiplier was warranted based on contingency and delay then it would follow that every contingency employment case deserves a multiplier, and such standard is untenable and not followed by the courts.

Lastly, Plaintiff argues that Plaintiff’s counsel requires a multiplier in order to be able to continue to take cases such as Plaintiff’s up to, and including, trial. (Ruiz Decl., 20, 22.) Plaintiff notes that “FEHA is remedial legislation, which declares [t]he opportunity to seek, obtain and hold employment without discrimination to be a civil right…” (Robinson v. Fair Employment & Housing Com. (1992) 2 Cal.4th 226, 243 [internal quotations omitted].) In cases involving the enforcement of constitutional or statutory rights, such fee enhancements may make such cases economically feasible to competent private attorneys.” (Taylor v. Nabors Drilling USA, LP (2014) 222 Cal.App.4th 1228, 1252 [internal quotations omitted].)

Considering the arguments of the parties, the Court declines to apply the requested $172,152.40 multiplier to the lodestar amount. Plaintiff has not shown that there was anything novel or unusually difficult about this case or the questions it involved. In addition, because the quality of representation and the degree of skill exercised by Plaintiffscounsel are already factored into the lodestar, it would be unreasonable to award an enhancement. (See Holguin v. Dish Network LLC (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 1310, 1333 [“Where, as here, the court determines that the lodestar itself constitutes a reasonable fee for the action at issue, no enhancement is warranted.”].)

Reasonableness of the Requested Fees

“[T]he court’s discretion in awarding attorney fees is … to be exercised so as to fully compensate counsel for the prevailing party for services reasonably provided to his or her client.” (Horsford v. Board of Trustees of California State University (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 359, 395 (Horsford).) The trial court may reduce the award where the fee request appears unreasonably inflated, such as where the attorneys’ efforts are unorganized or duplicative. (Serrano v. Unruh (1982) 32 Cal.3d 621, 635, fn. 21.) “[T]he verified time statements of the attorneys, as officers of the court, are entitled to credence in the absence of a clear indication the records are erroneous.” (Horsford, supra, at p. 396.)

Here, Plaintiff’s counsel has attached billing statements to the instant motion detailing the nature of the work performed. (Ruiz Decl., 17, Exs. 7, 8; Hennig Decl., 68, Ex. 6; Boyajian Decl, 26, Ex. 13.). Defendants assert that the hours billed by Plaintiff’s counsel are improper, excessive, and duplicative.

First, Defendants note that there is a disparity between the amount sought in attorney’s fees and the settlement amount of $100,000.00. In the reply, Plaintiff cites to Harman v. City and County of San Francisco (2007) 158 Cal.App.4th 407, 426-427, where the Court of Appeal found that “[t]he courts have often expressed the principle that a slight monetary recovery will not control assessment of the appropriate amount of attorney fees where a constitutional right is vindicated or a significant public benefit conferred. A court should not reduce the lodestar merely because the prevailing party did not receive the type of relief that it requested. This is especially true in civil rights cases.” (Internal quotations and citations omitted.)

Second, Defendants assert that in addition to the hourly rates claimed by Plaintiff’s counsel, the distribution of work done on this matter was unnecessarily top heavy in that much of the routine work completed should have been done by lower cost personnel. Defendants assert that 37% of the time was spent in deposition and discovery related activity, and that a considerable percentage of time was spent in preparation of basic trial documents including motions in limine, deposition designation, and trial exhibits. (Jardini Decl., 39.) Defendants argue that applying a more appropriate staffing mix of partner (40%), associate (30%) and paralegal (30%) time consistent with the services performed in this matter results in an additional reduction of $86,468.31. (Jardini Decl., 40.) Plaintiff counters that this argument does not take into account the actual staffing of Plaintiff’s counsel’s firms and does not account for any downsizing that may have occurred as a result of Covid-19. Indeed, Mr. Boyajian’s declaration in support of the motion indicates that during the time he litigated this matter, Mr. Boyajian was the managing attorney of his practice, which included two attorneys and, at various times, one to two support staff. (Boyajian Decl., 26.) In addition, Hennig Ruiz & Singh, P.C is only a twelve-attorney firm. (Ruiz Decl., 9.) Based on the foregoing, the Court declines to make the requested reduction of $86,468.31.

Third, Defendants note that Mr. Boyajian billed 213.2 hours, and assert that almost 90% of his billings were billed in either half-hour or full-hour increments, rather than in tenth of an hour increments. (Jardini Decl., 42, 43.) Defendants assert that such billing practices do not accurately account for the actual time spent working on any given task, and create an unreasonable amount of fees being sought, such that Mr. Boyajian’s requested fees should be reduced by 20% (equaling a reduction of $12,024.48). (Jardini Decl., 42-48.) Plaintiff counters that Mr. Boyajian’s time records are entitled to credence, noting that, as set forth above, “[t]he verified time statements of the attorneys, as officers of the court, are entitled to credence in the absence of a clear indication the records are erroneous.” (Horsford, supra, at p. 396.) Mr. Boyajian also asserts that not all time spent on this case was recorded, so the amount of time stated on his time records is conservative and necessarily understates the actual amount of time devoted to the prosecution of this case. (Boyajian Decl., 27.) Based on the foregoing, the Court declines to make the requested reduction of $12,024.48.

Fourth, Defendants assert that Plaintiff’s counsel spent an excessive amount of time on basic tasks and/or the creation of routine documents. (See Opp’n at pp. 12:19-13:14; Jardini Decl., 53-58.) Defendants contend that the hours requested were excessive by 27.2 hours, and that the requested fees should accordingly be reduced by $10,900.95. (Jardini Decl., 58.) Defendants also assert that Plaintiff’s counsel spent excessive time on interoffice communications. Defendants contend that conferencing within the firms totaled approximately 46.65 hours, or 10% of the total hours billed. (Jardini Decl., 60.) Defendants assert that conferencing at the level of 5%, or 31.1 hours, which allows for one hour of conferencing for every 20 hours billed, would be adequate, and that this would result in a reduction of $10,700.64. (Jardini Decl., 64.) In the reply, Plaintiff appears to concede that extra time was spent, as they assert “Plaintiff’s Counsel does not eat unless they perform … unless they prevail. To ensure that they eat, spending extra time is perfectly reasonable.” (Reply at p. 6:25-27.) Based on the foregoing, the Court will deduct $21,601.59 from the total award.

Finally, Defendants contend that Plaintiff’s counsel unnecessarily billed for more than one attorney who was in attendance when the matter did not warrant such duplicative representation. Defendants assert that such duplicative billing practices warrant a reduction of 30.2 hours, or $12,103.25. (Jardini Decl., 65-68.) But as Plaintiff notes, Defendants fail to specifically identify any such instance in which Plaintiff’s counsel billed for duplicative representation. Thus, the Court declines to make the requested reduction of $12,103.25.

Conclusion

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff’s motion is granted in part. The Court orders that Plaintiff is entitled to recover $313,910.91 in attorney’s fees from Defendants, jointly and severally. Plaintiff is ordered to give notice of this Order and to file and serve a proposed amended judgment within ten days of the date of this Order.

DATED: April 11, 2022

Hon. Teresa A. Beaudet

Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court


[1]Plaintiff’s motion provides that Plaintiff filed a Memorandum of Costs on both September 7, 2021 and September 27, 2021, and that the parties thereafter resolved the issue of costs, leaving only attorneys’ fees to be determined by the Court.



Case Number: ****9015 Hearing Date: January 21, 2022 Dept: 50

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 50

miriam avelar arvizu,

Plaintiff,

vs.

ammadis, inc., et al.,

Defendants.

Case No.:

BC 679015

Hearing Date:

January 21, 2022

Hearing Time:

10:00 a.m.

[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE:

PLAINTIFF MIRIAM AVELAR ARVIZU’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES

The Court has reviewed the Objection to Electronic Service of the Motion for Attorney’s Fees filed by Plaintiff and the supporting Declaration of Anahita Kouroshnia, counsel for Defendants. Based thereon, the Court finds good cause to continue the hearing on the motion so Defendants may file their opposition. Plaintiff should reserve the next available date for the hearing and inform the Court and the parties of the new date at the hearing.

Plaintiff is ordered to give notice of this Order.

DATED: January 21, 2022

Hon. Teresa A. Beaudet

Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court



Case Number: ****9015    Hearing Date: August 24, 2020    Dept: 50

 

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 50

miriam avelar arvizu,

Plaintiff,

vs.

ammadis, inc., et al.,

Defendants.

Case No.:

BC 679015

Hearing Date:

August 24, 2020

Hearing Time:

1:30 p.m.

[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE:

DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO FORM INTERROGATORIES – EMPLOYEMENT;

DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO FORM INTERROGATORIES – GENERAL;

DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER DISCOVERY RESPONSES AND DOCUMENT PRODUCTION;

DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO SPECIAL INTERROGATORIES

Background

Plaintiff Miriam Avelar Arvizu (“Arvizu”) filed this employment action on October 11, 2017. Discovery in this action has been closed since October 9, 2018. On January 10, 2020, during a Trial Setting Conference, the Court noted that counsel for Defendant Cingular Grocers, Inc. (“Cingular”) indicated the need to “do some limited discovery” because “[t]he case has been pending for a while with possible need for an update.” (Decker Decl., ¶ 2, Ex. 1, p. 2:4-7.) Counsel for Arvizu objected to “any reopening of discovery,” but, in response to the Court’s proposed of “a round of supplementals just to see if anything is new,” Counsel for Arvizu said they would “be okay with supplemental rogs or RFP’s.” He clarified that he would “be fine with supplementals, but not with reopening discovery.” (Decker Decl., ¶ 2, Ex. 1, p. 2:8-17.) The January 10, 2020 minute order also reflects that the parties agreed to “supplemental interrogatories and/or request for production by 1/31/20.”

On January 21, 2020, Cingular served Form Interrogatories – General, Form Interrogatories – Employment Law, Supplemental Special Interrogatories, and Supplemental Requests for Production of Documents (collectively, the “Additional Discovery”). (Decker Decl., ¶ 4, Exs. 3-6.) On February 25, 2020, Arvizu served objection-only responses to the discovery propounded by Cingular. (Decker Decl., ¶ 5, Exs. 7-10.) In response to every discovery request, Arvizu objected that the requests did not conform to Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.070 or 2031.050 and that Cingular had not previously served any interrogatories or document requests, so there was nothing to supplement. Arvizu also objected that discovery was otherwise closed.

After attempts to meet and confer, the parties participated in an Informal Discovery Conference (“IDC”) on July 8, 2020. (Decker Decl., ¶¶ 7-9.) At the IDC and in emails thereafter, the parties discussed potential resolutions to the discovery dispute, but the parties were ultimately unable to resolve the dispute. (Decker Decl., ¶ 9.)

Cingular now moves for an order compelling Arvizu to provide responses to the Additional Discovery. Arvizu opposes.

Legal Standard

Code of Civil Procedure section 2031.310, subdivision (a) permits a propounding party to move for an order compelling a further response to a demand for inspection if the propounding party deems that a statement of compliance is incomplete, a representation of inability to comply is inadequate, incomplete, or evasive, or an objection is without merit or too general. (Code Civ. Proc., ; 2031.310, subd. (a).) A motion to compel further responses to a demand for inspection must set forth specific facts showing good cause for the discovery sought and must be accompanied by a meet and confer declaration. (Code Civ. Proc., ; 2031.310, subd. (b).)

Unless a motion to compel further responses is filed and served within 45 days of the service of the verified response, the propounding party waives any right to compel a further response. (Code Civ. Proc., ; 2031.310, subd. (c).)

If the court finds that a party has unsuccessfully made or opposed such a motion, the court “shall impose a monetary sanction . . . unless it finds that the one subject to the sanction acted with substantial justification or that other circumstances make the imposition of the sanction unjust.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 2031.310, subd. (h).)

Discussion

It is apparent that neither the Court nor counsel for Cingular and Arvizu realized at the January 10, 2020 Trial Setting Conference that Cingular had, at that point, propounded no written discovery to Arvizu. Arvizu contends that she agreed only to a round of supplemental discovery requests based on the assumption that written discovery had been previously propounded. Arvizu takes the position that she never agreed to reopen discovery except for supplemental discovery as that term is defined in Code of Civil Procedure sections 2030.070 and 2031.050.[1] Cingular counters that its request was always limited to updated damages discovery, which would not have necessarily been covered by past discovery requests. Cingular argues that it would be severely prejudiced if it could not conduct this damages discovery, because Arvizu is expected to introduce evidence at trial that she has suffered lost income, lost future income, medical costs, and future medical costs.

During the Trial Setting Conference, neither the Court nor the parties referenced the Code of Civil Procedure when discussing the supplementation of damages information. As pointed out by Cingular, the provisions relied upon by Arvizu would not have worked at the time of the Trial Setting Conference since the discovery cut-off had already occurred, so there is no clear inference that the parties had to have sections 2030.070 and 2031.050 in mind.

The Court finds that the evidence demonstrates that the Court and the parties agreed to limited discovery for the purpose of eliciting damages evidence that had accrued since the discovery cutoff, and that the phrase “supplemental” was not discussed as meaning supplemental pursuant to the CCP, but rather supplemental in the sense of “since the discovery cutoff.” Because the discovery propounded does not fit squarely within the above definition, the Court orders the parties to further meet and confer via telephone or “in person” (either socially distanced or via Zoom or its equivalent) in an effort to agree upon revised discovery requests with this ruling in mind. The Court notes that the compromise proposed by counsel for Arvizu appears to be a reasonable place to begin the discussion, but the additional area raised by Cingular as to injuries and recoveries pertaining to other employment claims during the same period also should be considered. The Court is not limiting the parties to these two points in their meet and confer efforts.

The Court declines to award sanctions in connection with these motions, as the Court finds that the circumstances make imposition of sanctions unjust.

Finally, the Court notes that it will vacate and reset the current trial and FSC dates pursuant to the Presiding Judge’s order that no jury trials will take place before January 4, 2021.

Conclusion

The Court denies the motions to compel without prejudice to Cingular’s propounding of revised written discovery and sets a discovery conference on ____, 2020 in Dept. 50 at ________ to discuss the results of the parties meet and confer efforts. Arvizu is ordered to give notice of this ruling.

DATED: August 24, 2020 ________________________________

Hon. Teresa A. Beaudet

Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court


[1] Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.070 provides that “a party may propound a supplemental interrogatory to elicit any later acquired information bearing on all answers previously made by any party in response to interrogatories.” Code of Civil Procedure section 2031.050 provides that “a party may propound a supplemental demand to inspect . . . any later acquired or discovered documents . . . in the possession, custody, or control of the party on whom the demand is made.”



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