This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 09/24/2020 at 02:13:35 (UTC).

RIA CANLAS VS GENERAL MOTORS LLC

Case Summary

On 02/09/2018 RIA CANLAS filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against GENERAL MOTORS LLC. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are HOLLY E. KENDIG and ELAINE LU. The case status is Other.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****3440

  • Filing Date:

    02/09/2018

  • Case Status:

    Other

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Other Contract

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

HOLLY E. KENDIG

ELAINE LU

 

Party Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner

CANLAS RIA

Defendants and Respondents

DOES 1 TO 20

GENERAL MOTORS LLC

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorneys

BARRY DAVID N. ESQ.

NORRIS SARAH JANE

BARRY DAVID NEAL ESQ.

Defendant and Respondent Attorneys

ERSKINE LAW GROUP PC

RAZANI MONA AMY

ARENS MARY LYNN

 

Court Documents

Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

9/1/2020: Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

Order - ORDER PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES

7/23/2020: Order - ORDER PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES

Notice of Ruling

7/31/2020: Notice of Ruling

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER)

5/4/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER)

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE - HEARING RE: DISMISSAL DATE)

10/7/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE - HEARING RE: DISMISSAL DATE)

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (FINAL STATUS CONFERENCE; HEARING ON EX PARTE APPLICATION TO ...)

8/14/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (FINAL STATUS CONFERENCE; HEARING ON EX PARTE APPLICATION TO ...)

Opposition - OPPOSITION PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT'S EX PARTE TO COMPEL PLAINTIFF'S DEPO

8/6/2019: Opposition - OPPOSITION PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT'S EX PARTE TO COMPEL PLAINTIFF'S DEPO

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE TRIAL)

8/7/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE TRIAL)

Notice - NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL OF EX PARTE APP TO CONTINUE TRIAL

7/23/2019: Notice - NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL OF EX PARTE APP TO CONTINUE TRIAL

Notice of Ruling

4/19/2019: Notice of Ruling

Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

4/10/2019: Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

Declaration - DECLARATION OF ETHAN ROBINSON IN SUPPORT OF GENERAL MOTORS LLC'S OPPOSITION

3/26/2019: Declaration - DECLARATION OF ETHAN ROBINSON IN SUPPORT OF GENERAL MOTORS LLC'S OPPOSITION

Notice of Case Reassignment and Order for Plaintiff to Give Notice

12/21/2018: Notice of Case Reassignment and Order for Plaintiff to Give Notice

NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

5/29/2018: NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

PLAINTTIFF'S CRC 3.1345 SEPARATE STATEMENT OF ITEMS IN DISPUTE IN DISPUTE IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS NOS. 31,37,38 AND 39

7/30/2018: PLAINTTIFF'S CRC 3.1345 SEPARATE STATEMENT OF ITEMS IN DISPUTE IN DISPUTE IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS NOS. 31,37,38 AND 39

PLAINTIFF'S NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO COMPEL DEFENDANT GENERAL MOTORS LLC,'S SUPPLEMENTAL RESPONSES TO FORM INTERROGATORIES 1.1, 12.1,15.1 AND 17.1; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS & AUTHORITIES; ETC

7/30/2018: PLAINTIFF'S NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO COMPEL DEFENDANT GENERAL MOTORS LLC,'S SUPPLEMENTAL RESPONSES TO FORM INTERROGATORIES 1.1, 12.1,15.1 AND 17.1; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS & AUTHORITIES; ETC

ANSWER OF PEFENDAT GENERAL MOTORS LLC TO UNVERIFIED COMPLAINT OF PLAINTIFF RIA CANLAS

3/14/2018: ANSWER OF PEFENDAT GENERAL MOTORS LLC TO UNVERIFIED COMPLAINT OF PLAINTIFF RIA CANLAS

PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS -

2/27/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS -

86 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 09/16/2020
  • DocketRequest for Dismissal; Filed by Ria Canlas (Plaintiff)

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  • 09/01/2020
  • DocketNotice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order; Filed by Clerk

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  • 07/31/2020
  • DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by Ria Canlas (Plaintiff)

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  • 07/24/2020
  • Docketat 1:30 PM in Department 26, Elaine Lu, Presiding; Nunc Pro Tunc Order

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  • 07/24/2020
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Nunc Pro Tunc Order)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 07/23/2020
  • Docketat 09:30 AM in Department 26, Elaine Lu, Presiding; Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees (PLAINTIFF RIA CANLAS? MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS? FEES AND COSTS PURSUANT TO CIVIL CODE SECTION 1974(D);) - Held - Motion Granted

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  • 07/23/2020
  • Docketat 09:30 AM in Department 26, Elaine Lu, Presiding; Order to Show Cause Re: Dismissal (Settlement) - Held - Continued

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  • 07/23/2020
  • Docketat 3:00 PM in Department 26, Elaine Lu, Presiding; Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees (PLAINTIFF RIA CANLAS? MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS? FEES AND COSTS PURSUANT TO CIVIL CODE SECTION 1974(D);) - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court

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  • 07/23/2020
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Order to Show Cause Re: Dismissal (Settlement); Hearing on Mo...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 07/23/2020
  • DocketOrder Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

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128 More Docket Entries
  • 05/29/2018
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Ria Canlas (Plaintiff)

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  • 03/14/2018
  • DocketANSWER OF PEFENDAT GENERAL MOTORS LLC TO UNVERIFIED COMPLAINT OF PLAINTIFF RIA CANLAS

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  • 03/14/2018
  • DocketGeneral Denial; Filed by General Motors, LLC (Defendant)

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  • 02/27/2018
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 02/27/2018
  • DocketProof-Service/Summons; Filed by Ria Canlas (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/20/2018
  • DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE & OSC RE PROOF OF SERVICE

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  • 02/20/2018
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/09/2018
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Ria Canlas (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/09/2018
  • DocketCOMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES

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  • 02/09/2018
  • DocketSUMMONS

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC693440    Hearing Date: July 23, 2020    Dept: 26

IN ORDER TO IMPLEMENT PHYSICAL DISTANCING AND UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE, THE COURT STRONGLY ENCOURAGES ALL COUNSEL AND ALL PARTIES TO APPEAR REMOTELY FOR NON-TRIAL AND NON-EVIDENTIARY MATTERS, INCLUDING THIS MOTION.

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 26

ria canlas,

Plaintiff,

v.

general motors, LLC, et al.

Defendants.

Case No.: BC693440

Hearing Date: July 23, 2020

[TENTATIVE] order RE:

Plaintiff’s motion for attorney fees

Background

On February 9, 2018, Plaintiff Ria Canlas (“Plaintiff”) filed the instant action against defendant General Motors LLC (“Defendant”), for causes of action arising from the Song-Beverly Act. On August 27, 2019, Plaintiff filed a notice of settlement of the entire case. The only remaining issue relates to attorney fees and costs. (Minute Order 2/10/20.)

On April 28, 2020, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for attorney fees and costs seeking a total of $85,043.22 in attorney fees and costs comprised of a total lodestar amount of $52,117.50, a lodestar multiplier of 1.5, and costs of $6,866.97. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hearing for this motion was continued from May 13, 2020 to July 23, 2020 at 9:30 am. (Minute Order 4/28/20.) On June 30, 2020, Plaintiff filed an amended notice with proof of service giving notice of the July 23, 2020 hearing date. On July 10, Defendant filed its opposition. On July 16, 2020, Plaintiff filed a reply.

Legal Standard

Under the Song-Beverly Act, “[i]f 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).) Further, “pretrial dismissal with prejudice pursuant to the compromise agreement [is] sufficient for purposes of section 1794(d) to allow an award of attorney fees and costs.” (Wohlgemuth v. Caterpillar Inc. (2012) 207 Cal.App.4th 1252, 1263.)

“Of course, parties are free to expressly waive attorney fees and costs as part of a compromise agreement. But allowing a defendant to thwart an otherwise successful consumer's remedy under section 1794(d) by means of a compromise agreement silent on attorney fees and costs—merely because the means used to finally terminate the action was a dismissal rather than a formal judgment—would likely become a trap for the unwary consumer and a potential means of evading statutory compliance.” (Id. at p.1263, Fn.10.)

In determining what fees are reasonable, California courts apply the “lodestar” approach. (See, e.g., Holguin v. DISH Network LLC (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 1310, 1332.) This inquiry “begins with the ‘lodestar,’ i.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate.” (See PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095.) From there, the “[t]he lodestar figure may then be adjusted, based on consideration of factors specific to the case, in order to fix the fee at the fair market value for the legal services provided.” (Ibid.) Relevant factors include: “(1) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, (2) the skill displayed in presenting them, (3) the extent to which the nature of the litigation precluded other employment by the attorneys, [and] (4) the contingent nature of the fee award.” (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1132.)

Discussion

As a preliminary matter, the Court reminds the parties that “[e]lectronic documents must by electronically filed in PDF, text searchable format when technologically feasible without impairment of the document’s image.” (First Amended General Order re Mandatory Electronic Filing for Civil, 5/3/19.)

Right to Recover

Here, the parties entered into a formal settlement agreement on December 10, 2019. (Barry Decl. ¶ 11, Ex. 5.) The settlement agreement provides that “[a]dditionally, Defendant shall pay plaintiff attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses based on a motion for recovery of reasonable attorney’s fees, cost, and expenses of suit incurred, as provided by Civil Code section 1794(d) and its case law or by agreement of the parties if so negotiated before filing such a motion.” (Id. Ex. 5 at ¶1(i).) Defendant does not dispute Plaintiff’s entitlement to reasonable attorney fees and costs. Accordingly, Plaintiff may recover reasonable attorney fees and costs.

Defendant’s Opposition

Defendant contends that the fees requested are excessive and were not reasonably incurred. Defendant also asserts that the circumstances do not warrant a lodestar modifier.

Reasonableness of Attorney fees

Plaintiff seeks attorney fees in the amount of $52,117.50 and costs in the amount of $6,866.97. Defendant opposes the fees request asserting that the fees were not reasonably incurred.

The trial court has broad authority to determine the amount of a reasonable fee. (PLCM Group, Inc. v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095.) The party bears the burden of proof as to “reasonableness” of any fee claim. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1033.5, subd. (c)(5).) The party seeking fees has the burden of documenting the appropriate hours expended and hourly rates. (City of Colton v. Singletary (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 751, 784.) This burden requires competent evidence as to the nature and value of the services rendered. (Martino v. Denevi (1986) 182 Cal.App.3d 553, 559.)

An attorney's testimony as to the number of hours worked is sufficient evidence to support an award of attorney fees, even in the absence of detailed time records or billing statements, and there is no requirement that such records or statements be offered in evidence. (Steiny & Co., Inc. v. California Electric Supply Co. (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 285, 293.) Ascertaining the fee amount is left to the trial court’s sound discretion. (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1132.) Moreover, “[t]here is ‘no mathematical rule requiring proportionality between compensatory damages and attorney's fees awards’, [Citation], and courts have awarded attorney's fees where plaintiffs recovered only nominal or minimal damages.” (Harman v. City and County of San Francisco (2007) 158 Cal.App.4th 407, 421.)

Hourly Rates

Attorney David Barry

Attorney David Barry (“Barry”) is president and founder of the law firm Journey Law Group, Inc., counsel of record for Plaintiff. Barry initially billed at an hourly rate of $475.00 and increased his hourly rate to $525.00 starting on September 1, 2019. (Barry Decl. ¶ 16, Ex. 6.)

Barry graduated from Pepperdine School of Law in 2000. (Id. ¶ 19.) He was admitted to the California Bar in 2002 and the New York State Bar in 2004. (Id. ¶ 24.) He has been practicing law for over 19 years, specializing in consumer law for most of those years, and operating his own firm since August of 2010. (Id. ¶ 17.) Numerous other courts have approved Barry’s hourly rate. (Id. ¶¶ 26-69.) Moreover, Barry’s rate is similar and lower than other hourly rates charged by attorneys with similar experience in the area. (Id. ¶ 40.)

Accordingly, the court finds that these hourly rates are reasonable and within the range of prevailing rates for attorneys in the community.

Attorney Elizabeth Quinn

Attorney Elizabeth Quinn (“Quinn”), is an associate of the law firm, The Barry Law Firm, counsel of record for Plaintiff, and billed at an hourly rate of $450. (Quinn Decl. ¶¶ 1, 11.)

Quinn graduated from Pepperdine School of Law in May of 2000 and has been admitted to the State Bar of California since December 2000. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 5.) Quinn volunteered as a mediator for Los Angeles Superior Court. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 7.) For approximately 14 years, Quinn has been engaged in civil litigation, as a Senior Associate of a firm, as a sole practitioner, and most recently as an associate at the Barry Law Firm. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) Numerous other courts have approved Quinn’s hourly rate. (Id. ¶¶ 12-19.)

Accordingly, the court finds that these hourly rates are reasonable and within the range of prevailing rates for attorneys in the community.

Attorney Sarah Jane Norris

Attorney Sarah Jane Norris (“Norris”), is an associate of the law firm, The Barry Law Firm, counsel of record for Plaintiff. Norris initially billed at an hourly rate of $250. Norris’s hourly rate increased in September of 2019 to $300. (Norris Decl. ¶¶ 1, 6.)

Norris graduated from Regent University School of Law in May of 2016 and has been admitted to the State Bar of California since December 2016. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) Norris has been engaged in civil litigation for approximately three and a half years, most recently as an associate at the Barry Law Firm. (Id. ¶¶ 4-6.) Numerous other courts have approved Norris’s hourly rate. (Id. ¶¶ 7-18.)

Accordingly, the court finds that these hourly rates are reasonable and within the range of prevailing rates for attorneys in the community.

Attorney Troy Candiotti

Attorney Troy Candiotti (“Candiotti”), is an associate of the law firm, The Barry Law Firm, counsel of record for Plaintiff, and billed at an hourly rate of $250. (Candiotti Decl. ¶¶ 1, 5.)

Candiotti graduated Loyola Law School in May of 2019 and has been admitted to the State Bar of California since December 2019. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 4.) During law school, Candiotti worked as a law clerk for two different non-profit legal organizations specializing in civil rights. (Ibid.) Since December of 2019, Candiotti has been an associate at the Barry Law Firm. (Id. ¶ 5.) Numerous other courts have approved Candiotti’s hourly rate. (Id. ¶ 6.)

Accordingly, the court finds that these hourly rates are reasonable and within the range of prevailing rates for attorneys in the community.

Attorney Richard Uss

Attorney Richard Uss (“Uss”), was an associate of the law firm, The Barry Law Firm, counsel of record for Plaintiff, from October 2017 to July 2019 and billed at an hourly rate of $370. (Supplemental Barry Decl. ¶¶ 6.) Numerous other courts have approved Uss’s rates in similar matters. (Id. ¶ 7.)

Accordingly, the court finds that these hourly rates are reasonable and within the range of prevailing rates for attorneys in the community.

Hours Spent

Defendant contends that the hours claimed are excessive and not reasonably incurred. Specifically, Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s hours should be reduced by 28.2 hours for work that involved templates and hours that this court has already previously denied or awarded. Defendant also contends that the court should strike 12.9 hours because Plaintiff failed to promptly file this fee motion.

As to the 12.9 hours incurred during the 8 months after Plaintiff’s filing of the notice of settlement, the court finds that Plaintiff reasonably incurred these hours because Defendant “did not serve a release agreement until December 4, 2019.” (Reply p.2:5-6.) Plaintiff asserts that she returned the executed release less than a week later. Accordingly, the 12.9 hours was reasonable for the work involved.

As to the 28.2 hours that Defendant contends was excessive for work that should have been minimal in light of Plaintiff’s Counsel’s use of templates, the vast majority of these hours is substantially supported and appears reasonable. The court agrees that Plaintiff’s Counsel likely used templates for many of the discovery motions. The court will reduce the time incurred drafting the motion to compel deposition by a half hour ($237.50). The court will not further reduce the amounts sought on the basis of template motions in recognition that each template must be modified and tailored to the unique facts of each motion and issues. Moreover, Plaintiff’s Counsel present evidence that this cases required different discovery and required Counsel to draft additional motions. (Supplemental Barry Decl. ¶ 5.)

The court has already previously ruled on Plaintiff’s request for fees for work performed in connection with Plaintiff’s motion to compel further responses to form interrogatories. The court’s April 11, 2019 order ruling on this motion already included an award of reasonable attorney fees in the form of $1,500 sanctions. Plaintiff’s assertion that Defendant has not yet paid the fees ordered (Supplemental Barry Decl. ¶ 4) is immaterial because sanction amounts are judgments and may be enforced as such. Allowing for further recovery of fees for that same motion would in effect award Plaintiff twice for fees spent on the same motion. Thus, the court will deny Plaintiff’s request for an additional $1,400 for work on this motion.

In the court’s April 9, 2019 order ruling on Plaintiff’s Motions to Compel Further Responses to Requests for Production and Special Interrogatories, the court found that

Defendant attempted to resolve this dispute via an informal discovery conference. (Robinson Decl. ¶¶ 6-7.) Instead, Plaintiff took the position that such a conference would have been futile. (Reply at 2:17-26.) The Court is unpersuaded by Plaintiff’s contention that this matter could not have been resolved without the filing of a discovery motion. The Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to put forth sufficient evidence showing that Defendant had no intention to resolve this matter informally.

(4/9/19 Order.) The court is still of the view that Plaintiff’s Counsel may have avoided some unnecessary litigation with a more genuine and robust meet and confer effort. Therefore, the court reduces the amount sought for work on this motion by $1,092.50 (2.3 hours). The balance of time spent on this motion is recoverable.

As to the time spent on the instant motion for fees, the court finds the time billed to be somewhat excessive and will reduce the amount sought by three hours ($1,575). The balance of the time billed for this motion is reasonable for the work involved.

Lodestar Enhancement

Plaintiff requests a lodestar enhancement multiplier of 1.5 given the contingent risk, the substantial delay in payment, preclusion of other work, the skill displayed in presenting the issues, and the outcome achieved. Defendant opposes stating that the enhancement is not warranted, the amount has been included already in the attorney fees, that the case was not particularly complex, and that the contingent nature of this case is overstated.

Our Supreme Court has provided clear guidance for trial courts in determining whether to apply a multiplier:

Of 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; moreover, the party seeking a fee enhancement bears the burden of proof. In each case, the trial court should consider whether, and to what extent, the attorney and client have been able to mitigate the risk of nonpayment, e.g., because the client has agreed to pay some portion of the lodestar amount regardless of outcome. It should also consider the degree to which the relevant market compensates for contingency risk, extraordinary skill, or other factors under Serrano III. 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.

(Ketchum, supra, 24 Cal.4th at pp.1138–1139.)

Here, the calculations of the hours worked and hourly rate above have already addressed many of the factors Plaintiff raises. Therefore, the court finds that an enhancement multiplier is not appropriate for the instant case.

Accordingly, utilizing a lodestar approach, and in view of the totality of the circumstances, the court finds that the total and reasonable amount of attorney fees incurred is $47,812.50.

Costs

To support Plaintiff’s claim for costs, Plaintiff provides billing as to costs stating the amount spent and a short description. (Barry Decl. Ex. 8.) The costs are allowable under Code of Civil Procedure section 1033.5. Accordingly, the court awards costs of $6,866.97.

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion for attorney fees is GRANTED in the total amount of $47,812.50. Costs are granted in the amount of $6,866.97.

Plaintiff is ordered to provide notice of this order and file proof of service of such.

DATED: July 23, 2020 ___________________________

Elaine Lu

Judge of the Superior Court