On 06/06/2017 SEANY RENFROW filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against LARRY BUTTLER. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is MARK C. KIM. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
MARK C. KIM
DOES 1-50 INCLUSIVE
INTERINSURANCE EXCHANGE OF THE AUTO. CLUB
THE GALAXY HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION
ESTATE OF SHERRY BUTLER DOE 1
LONG'S INSTALLATION LONG THANH NGUYEN
ROE 3- CHRISTOPHER ZALDIVAR
ROE 2- CZH INSTALLATION
HOWARD'S APPLICANCES INC.
INSTALLATION CHRISTOPHER ZALDIVAR DBA CZH
ESTATE OF SHERRY BUTLER MOE 3
CHRISTOPHER ZALDIVAR DBA CZH INSTALL.M/2
CHRISTOPHER ZALDIVAR DBA CZH INSTALLATION ROE 3
CZH INSTALLATION ROE 2
ESTATE OF LARRY BUTLER MOE 4
MOES 1- 50 INC X COMP GALAXY HOA
LAW FIRM OF KAISER & SWINDELLS
REISINGER ROBERT LEE
FAJARDO MILTON VLADIMIR
GOWER RICHARD SCOTT
JOHNSON COLRENA KAY
WOODS DUSTIN ERIC
HARRINGTON FOXX DUBROW & CANTER LLP
BRAMLAGE GREGORY JOHN
KAISER RAYMOND THEODORE
6/6/2017: Notice of Case Management Conference
8/25/2017: Request for Judicial Notice
11/29/2017: Case Management Statement
12/27/2017: Notice of Ruling
1/2/2018: Notice of Ruling
9/10/2018: Amendment to Complaint (Fictitious/Incorrect Name)
9/25/2018: Notice of Intent to Appear by Telephone
10/17/2018: Minute Order
4/17/2019: Motion for Summary Judgment
5/7/2019: Request for Dismissal
5/23/2019: Notice of Joinder
Notice of Joinder (Name Extension) (Notice of Joinder to Motion to Sever, etc.); Filed by ESTATE OF SHERRY BUTLER (DOE 1) (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Declaration (Declaration of Andrew Bergelin in Support of Motion to Sever, or Alternatively, Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Liability Insurance at Trial); Filed by INTERINSURANCE EXCHANGE OF THE AUTO. CLUB (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by INTERINSURANCE EXCHANGE OF THE AUTO. CLUB (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Declaration (Declaration of Tony Staley in Support of Motion to Sever, or Alternatively, Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Liability Insurance at Trial); Filed by INTERINSURANCE EXCHANGE OF THE AUTO. CLUB (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Declaration (Declaration of Brian Arriola in Support of Motion to Sever, or Alternatively, Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Liability Insurance at Trial); Filed by INTERINSURANCE EXCHANGE OF THE AUTO. CLUB (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Declaration (Declaration of Renan Alvarado in Support of Motion to Sever, or Alternatively, Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Liability Insurance at Trial); Filed by INTERINSURANCE EXCHANGE OF THE AUTO. CLUB (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Motion to Sever; Filed by INTERINSURANCE EXCHANGE OF THE AUTO. CLUB (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Request for DismissalRead MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department S27, Mark C. Kim, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Compel Further Discovery ResponsesRead MoreRead Less
Motion for Summary Judgment; Filed by Howard's Applicances, Inc. (Cross-Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Rtn of Service of Summons & Compl; Filed by SEANY RENFROW (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Rtn of Service of Summons & Compl; Filed by SEANY RENFROW (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Rtn of Service of Summons & Compl; Filed by SEANY RENFROW (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Rtn of Service of Summons & Compl; Filed by SEANY RENFROW (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Notice of Case Assignment - Unlimited Civil CaseRead MoreRead Less
Complaint; Filed by SEANY RENFROW (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Summons (on Complaint); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Other - (Order To Show Cause Hearing)Read MoreRead Less
Civil Case Cover SheetRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: NC061227 Hearing Date: October 29, 2020 Dept: S27
Allegations of the Complaint
Plaintiff, Seany Renfrow filed this action against Defendants, Larry Butler, Sherry Butler, The Galaxy Homeowners Association, Eduardo James, and Interinsurance Exchange of the Automobile Club for damages arising out of a water leak in the subject condominium building. Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint on 11/08/17, and the FAC remained operative throughout the parties’ litigation. The FAC included causes of action for:
(1) Breach of Contract;
(3) Enforcement of Equitable Servitudes;
(5) Breach of Fiduciary Duty;
(7) Breach of Insurance Contract; and
(8) Tortious Breach of Implied Duty of Good Faith.
Plaintiff’s FAC alleges the following:
• Plaintiff is the owner of a condominium unit. Her upstairs neighbors, the Butler Defendants, experienced a leak in their dishwasher which flooded her apartment, resulting in moisture and mold intrusion, which also reached the common areas adjoining Plaintiff’s unit.
• Plaintiff demanded that Defendant Galaxy, which is responsible for maintaining and repairing the condominium’s common areas, repair the damaged common area, but Galaxy refused. Plaintiff undertook the repairs herself, and was hospitalized for wheezing and shortness of breath.
• Galaxy has routinely failed to maintain and repair common areas.
• Defendant James is a manager employed by Galaxy who:
o Slashed the tires of Plaintiff’s vehicle;
o Unjustifiably prevented Plaintiff’s contractor from making repairs to Plaintiff’s unit;
o Told the window repair company not to accommodate Plaintiff’s busy work schedule;
o Directed the window repair company to allow debris and razor blades to fall into Plaintiff’s back yard;
o Tore up and ignored Plaintiff’s requests for repairs;
o “Surreptitiously and without authority” or Plaintiff’s consent, entered Plaintiff’s unit and secretly took videos of her unit.
The various defendants filed cross-complaint against one another for indemnification and related claims.
The case proceeded to trial by jury, which commenced on 8/12/19 and concluded on 8/30/19. During the course of the trial, several things happened.
The Court granted Interinsurance’s motion for nonsuit, and dismissed Interinsurance.
Plaintiff, on 8/28/19, dismissed all claims against Eduardo James.
Plaintiff, on 8/23/19, dismissed all claims against the Estate of Sherry Butler.
The jury returned special verdicts on:
Plaintiff’s claim for negligence against Butler and Galaxy (Butler was negligence, Galaxy was not, Plaintiff was not harmed by Butler’s negligence);
Plaintiff’s claim for nuisance and trespass against Galaxy (Galaxy created a private nuisance, but it caused no damage to Plaintiff);
Plaintiff’s claim for nuisance as to Butler (Butler caused no nuisance to Plaintiff).
Motion to Tax Costs
History of Motion to Tax Costs and Parties’ Positions
Galaxy filed a memorandum of costs on 11/13/19. It sought to recover a total of $135,347.23 in costs by way of its memorandum.
On 12/03/19, Plaintiff filed a motion to tax costs. Plaintiff set the motion for hearing on 5/07/20, but the hearing was later moved to 8/06/20. The motion argued that the Court should reduce Galaxy’s costs because:
Defendant was seeking excessive expert witness fees because it was improperly calculating the fees to run from a 10/15/18 joint offer it made with James, rather than a 7/26/19 offer it served by itself.
Expert fees, regardless of date, are excessive in amount.
Defendant’s costs incurred to use an outside vendor to present PDFs and depo excerpts were not reasonable.
2/24/20, Galaxy timely filed opposition to the motion. It argued the case law Plaintiff relied upon concerning §998 offers had been expressly overruled. It argued all expert fees and outside vendor fees were both actually and reasonably incurred, such that they should all be awarded.
On 2/28/20, Plaintiff timely filed a reply to the opposition. Plaintiff argued the §998 offer made by Galaxy and James was an improper offer in the first instance, as they were not being sued jointly and severally because they were sued under different causes of action and legal theories. Plaintiff also reiterated her prior arguments concerning excessive expert fees and vendor costs.
On 3/02/20, Galaxy filed an objection to the reply brief. Galaxy argued the Court should not consider the reply brief, as it raised new issues for the first time that should have been raised in the moving papers. On 3/06/20, at the hearing, the Court continued the hearing to permit Galaxy to substantively brief the new issues raised in reply. The hearing was then continued again, to 10/29/20, due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.
On 3/13/20, Galaxy filed its supplemental brief. Galaxy argues, in the supplemental brief, that its liability to Plaintiff, if any, would have been joint and several with James’s liability, such that the first offer was proper.
The primary issue on this motion is whether Galaxy is entitled to recover its expert witness fees from 10/15/18 forward or from 7/26/19 forward. On 10/15/18, Galaxy and James made a joint §998 offer to Plaintiff in the total amount of $30,000. On 7/26/19, Galaxy made a solo §998 offer to Plaintiff in the total amount of $40,000. Notably, as of 10/15/18, Galaxy and James were jointly represented by the law firm of Grant, Genovese & Baratta, LLP. See, for example, the 3/02/18 cross-complaint with caption showing joint representation of both defendants. However, on 11/09/18, James filed a substitution of attorney, and thereafter he was represented by the law firm of Hanger, Steinberg, Shapiro & Ash. Galaxy, to this day, remains represented by Grant, Genevose & Baratta.
The §998 issue must be divided into two sub-issues. First, did the 7/26/19 offer extinguish the 10/15/18 offer? Second, was the 10/15/18 offer a nullity in light of Galaxy and James’s failure to be sued jointly and severally on Plaintiff’s complaint? The Court will consider the issues in reverse order.
Plaintiff argues she did not sue Galaxy and James jointly and severally, and therefore the 10/15/18 was improper and is a nullity for §998 purposes. Plaintiff cites several cases holding that a joint §998 offer by several defendants is proper if the defendants are jointly and severally liable to the plaintiff. Plaintiff then cites Textron Fin’l Corp. v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 1061, 1076-77 and Zhang v. Superior Court (2013) 57 Cal.4th 364, 378 to support her claim. These cases, however, concerned situations where a plaintiff made a joint §998 offer to several defendants who were not jointly and severally liable on a claim; the cases did not concern a situation where multiple defendants made a joint offer to a plaintiff. In Persson v. Smart Inventions, Inc. (2005) 125 Cal.App.4th 1141, the court of appeals considered a situation where two defendants who were NOT jointly and severally liable on the plaintiff’s claims submitted a joint §998 offer, pursuant to which they offered to be jointly and severally liable for payment of the settlement obligation if accepted. The court of appeals distinguished such an offer from an offer made by a plaintiff against numerous defendants, and held that the reasoning that applies to a plaintiff’s offer does NOT apply to a defense offer. The court of appeals therefore reversed the trial court’s ruling, which had granted the plaintiff’s motion to tax costs on the ground that the defendants were not jointly and severally liable. The Court notes that neither party raised Persson in the papers; the case is, however, directly on point, and therefore the Court has relied on it in rendering this ruling.
With respect to the remaining issue, the law is relatively simple. Pursuant to Wilson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 382, 390-392, when a party serves successive unrevoked and unaccepted §998 offers and the offeree obtains a judgment or award less favorable than the firs offer but more favorable than the second offer, the last offer is the only operative offer for determining §998 benefits and burdens. However, pursuant to Martinez v. Brownco Const. Co., Inc. (2013) 56 Cal.4th 1014, 102, when a party serves two unaccepted and unrevoked §998 offers and the other party does not obtain a judgment more favorable than EITHER offer, the trial court has discretion to order the party to pay expert fees from the date of the first offer.
As an initial note, the word “discretion” is key here. §998 does not mandate an award of expert fees, but only permits such an award. That said, an award of such fees is typical in cases where the party who served the §998 offer clearly obtained a better verdict at trial.
Plaintiff, in reply, argues she settled with James, and because Galaxy did not provide the terms of the settlement with James, Galaxy did not meet its burden to show Plaintiff failed to obtain a better result at the conclusion of litigation than she would have if she had accepted the 10/15/18 order. Plaintiff contends it is Galaxy’s burden to make this showing, and it cannot make the showing without presenting evidence of the terms of the Plaintiff/James settlement. Plaintiff relies on Taking v. Johnson Scaffolding Co. (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 579, 585 and Martinez, supra, at 1024 to support this position. The cases, however, hold only that the moving party has the burden to show that the offer complied with §998 in the first instance. In this case, Plaintiff and James are the only parties who know the terms of their settlement. It is nonsensical to place the burden on Galaxy to present the terms of that settlement in order to obtain its expert fees. If the settlement between Plaintiff and James was in excess of $30,000, then Plaintiff must present the terms of the settlement if she wishes to avoid a §998 costs award.
In conclusion, the Court finds Plaintiff failed to show the making of a joint offer to compromise by two defendants renders the offer a nullity if the defendants are not jointly and severally liable to the plaintiff on her complaint. Plaintiff also failed to show that she obtained a result at the conclusion of the litigation that was better than the 10/15/18 §998 offer. The Court will therefore exercise its discretion and award Defendant its costs, including expert fees, from 10/15/18 forward.
Amount of Expert Fees
Plaintiff’s next argument is that Defendant’s claimed amount of expert fees sought is excessive. Expert fees awarded pursuant to §998 must be reasonable in nature. The trial court is charged with determining what constitutes a reasonable fee, and that determination can be based on less than perfect billing records; a declaration showing the expert’s hourly rate and work done can be sufficient to support the request. See Michelson v. Camp (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 955, 975-976.
Defendant seeks to recover a total of $81,108.40 in expert witness fees. Defendant included Attachment 8 with its memorandum of costs. Attachment 8 includes a variety of receipts and invoices paid to Defendant’s experts in connection with the case.
Plaintiff argues the amount is unreasonable. Plaintiff cites to various co-defendants’ memoranda of costs, which included expert fees varying from just over $10,000 to just over $28,000. Plaintiff also notes that Defendant’s construction expert charged a total of just over $40,000, while Plaintiff’s construction expert charged less than $4000. Plaintiff also argues Defendant’s real estate management expert’s fees were unreasonable. Plaintiff notes that Defendant seeks to recover close to $40,000 for this expert also.
Defendant, in opposition to the motion, provides details concerning the work its construction and real estate management experts provided, as well as the hours worked and rates charged. Defendant also notes that Plaintiff only discussed the amount she paid to her experts in July and August of 2019, the time period she argues is relevant, rather than throughout the entire case; thus, the comparison is not helpful. Plaintiff, in reply, contends she paid her construction expert a total of just under $5000 throughout the entire case.
The Court finds the amounts Plaintiff and the other defendants paid to their experts is not persuasive concerning the issue of the amount Galaxy did pay or should have paid to its experts. The issues presented against Galaxy, as opposed to the Butlers or Interinsurance, were unique. The Court finds the opposition provides adequate documentation concerning the hourly rates charged and the total hours billed, and therefore the motion to tax the expert witness costs is denied in its entirety.
d. On Demand Group, LLC
Defendant retained an outside vendor, On Demand Group, LLC to attend the trial; On Demand charged a total of $15,500 for its services. Plaintiff does not contend the cost item is not recoverable as a matter of law. Plaintiff argues, instead, that Defendant’s choice to use the vendor was not reasonable, and the Court should exercise its discretion to tax the cost. Plaintiff notes that her firm used a file clerk or legal secretary to perform the functions billed by On Demand. She also notes that no other defendant brought in an outside service to perform these tasks.
Defendant, in opposition, notes that it is within the trial court’s discretion to award these costs if it finds the service was useful to the trier of fact. See Bender v. County of Los Angeles (2013) 217 Cal.App.4th 968, 990-991. Defendant notes that its attorneys, unlike Plaintiff’s, are located in Irvine, such that having office staff present at the courthouse in Long Beach every day was not reasonable.
The Court’s recollection of the trial is that On Demand was helpful in presenting the visual information for the jury and aided the jury in making its determinations. The motion to tax these costs is therefore denied.
Motion for Attorneys’ Fees
On 12/13/19, Galaxy filed this motion for attorneys’ fees. The hearing on the motion was originally scheduled for 6/02/20, but was continued due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. The Court’s 4/10/20 continuance order instructs the parties to calculate the briefing schedule per the original (6/02/20) hearing date. Plaintiff timely filed opposition to the motion on 5/19/20. Defendant did not file timely reply papers in connection with the 6/02/20 hearing date.
Galaxy contends it is entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees spent in connection with this case pursuant to both contract and statute. Specifically, Galaxy contends the CC&Rs that govern the parties’ relationship include a provision permitting recovery of attorneys’ fees in any action to enforce the provisions of the CC&Rs. Galaxy also contends Civil Code §5975(c), the Davis-Stirling Act, provides for recovery of attorneys’ fees.
Plaintiff opposes the motion. She argues attorneys’ fees cannot be awarded per the CC&Rs because she dismissed her breach of contract cause of action shortly before trial. She concedes Galaxy is entitled to recover fees per the third cause of action in her FAC (for enforcement of equitable servitudes), as that cause of action sought to enforce the CC&Rs. She contends, however, that Galaxy was required to apportion fees incurred in connection with the third cause of action from the remainder of the case; she also contends fees incurred in connection with the third cause of action were minimal.
Plaintiff also argues Defendant has not provided a proper lodestar calculation. She argues the rates should be limited to the rates actually charged by the attorneys and limited to amounts paid by State Farm. Plaintiff argues Defendant should not be permitted a lodestar multiplier in addition to its hourly rate.
Defendant filed a timely reply in connection with the continued hearing date (but not the original hearing date, as mentioned above). Defendant, in reply, argues Plaintiff did not dismiss the contract claim before trial, but during trial, which is a key distinction. Defendant argues apportionment is not required. It argues the fees sought are reasonable and should be awarded in full.
Both parties filed objections with the opposition and reply papers. Plaintiff’s objections are overruled. Defendant’s objections 1-5 and 7-9 are overruled; objection 6 is sustained.
Dismissal of Breach of Contract Cause of Action
Defendant seeks to recover the entirety of its fees incurred in connection with this action pursuant to Civil Code §1717, which permits recovery of attorneys’ fees when the parties’ contract provides for such remedy. Plaintiff argues fees pursuant to §1717 cannot be awarded because she dismissed her cause of action for breach of contract “near the conclusion of trial.”
§1717(b) provides, “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.” Defendant, in reply, relies on Santisas v. Goodin (1998) 17 Cal.4th 599, 602 to support its position that the dismissal must be before trial commences in order to preclude an award of fees under this section. Santisas did mention “pretrial dismissal.” The issue, however, was not whether a dismissal during trial would preclude an attorneys’ fees award; the issue was only whether a pre-trial dismissal precluded such an award. Thus, to the extent Defendant contends Santisas stands for the position that a dismissal must be pre-trial to invoke the protection of §1717(b), any such holding is mere dicta.
The Court researched the issue independently, and finds Marina Glencoe, L.P. v. Neue Sentimental Film AG (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 874, 876 is directly on point. The Court therein started its opinion by stating, “In this case, we hold that when a contract provides that the prevailing party is entitled to attorney fees and the plaintiff dismisses the action with prejudice after the start of trial, the defendant is not entitled to attorney fees as the prevailing party.” The Court therefore finds Defendant herein is not entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees per §1717.
Davis-Stirling Common Act
Plaintiff concedes Defendant is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees per the Davis-Stirling Common Act, found at Civil Code §5975(c), which states, “In an action to enforce the governing documents, the prevailing party shall be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.” Plaintiff contends, however, that Defendant can only recover its fees incurred in connection with the third cause of action in the FAC, and Defendant is required to apportion fees among the various causes of action when seeking to recover fees.
Plaintiff cites various cases concerning apportionment of fees in the context of contractual actions, and also cites various cases holding that CC&Rs are effectively contracts between homeowners and their associations. Plaintiff contends, by analogy, that Defendant is only entitled to recover its fees incurred on the third cause of action for enforcement of the CC&Rs, and not on the causes of action for negligence, nuisance, breach of fiduciary duty, and/or trespass. Plaintiff only cites one case that actually considered the issue of attorneys’ fees pursuant to the Davis-Sterling Act, and the Court has therefore focused its attention on that particular case. The case is Salawy v. Ocean Towers Housing Corp. (2004) 121 Cal.App.4th 664.
In Salawy, the plaintiffs were shareholders in an apartment cooperative. The cooperative repaired the building after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and the plaintiffs sued the cooperative for failure to reimburse expenses associated with vacating their units and for failure to restore the units to their pre-earthquake status. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the plaintiffs’ cause of action for promissory estoppel, holding that it was barred by the parties’ CC&Rs; the trial court awarded the defendant its attorneys’ fees. The plaintiffs appealed. The court of appeals reversed the attorneys’ fees award. It held that the complaint was based on promissory estoppel and was not “to enforce” the governing documents. It held that the use of the governing documents as a defense to the action did not render the action one “to enforce” the governing documents.
The Court has reviewed the operative First Amended Complaint and finds that the entire FAC was “to enforce” the CC&Rs. Indeed, the FAC reveals that Plaintiff herself was planning to seek attorneys’ fees under the Davis-Sterling Act in connection with the negligence and nuisance causes of action asserted in the FAC. At ¶28, which is found in the negligence cause of action, she pleads that she has incurred attorneys’ fees that are recoverable per Civil Code §5975. See also ¶39 (nuisance cause of action), which contains the same language. ¶48, pled in connection with the breach of fiduciary duty cause of action, also seeks recovery of attorneys’ fees, but does not specify the mechanism for such recovery; it seems that the Davis-Sterling Act would be the only grounds for recovery of such fees.
Additionally, each cause of action references and is grounded in the parties’ CC&Rs and “governing documents.” The second cause of action for negligence, at ¶24, alleges Galaxy was negligent in its maintenance, control, etc., of the building and violated Plaintiff’s rights of use “under the governing documents.” At ¶25, Plaintiff alleges Defendants caused water to leak into Plaintiff’s unit “in violation of the governing documents.” Similarly, the fourth cause of action for nuisance includes allegations, at ¶35, that Plaintiff had rights under the governing documents that Defendant violated. See also ¶36, which contains similar language. In the fifth cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty, ¶41, Plaintiff alleges Defendants breached their fiduciary duty to Plaintiff to enforce and/or comply with the governing documents. Finally, the sixth cause of action for trespass, at ¶50, alleges Plaintiff had the right to enjoy her unit per the CC&Rs, and the board violated those rights by failing to comply with the CC&Rs. Each and every cause of action in the complaint, therefore, was in whole or in part to enforce the CC&Rs.
Amount of Attorneys’ Fees
The final issue is the amount of attorneys’ fees to be awarded. Defendant seeks to recover a total of $315,180 in attorneys’ fees in connection with the case. Defendant concedes that its attorneys billed at the rate of $185 and $195/hour, but contends $350 is the reasonable hourly rate for their work; Defendant seeks to recover fees at the rate of $300/hour.
Plaintiff argues the fees should be limited to those actually charged, which are the $185/hour and $195/hour rates.
In Flannery v. California Highway Patrol (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 623, 632-633, the Court held that various factors go into determining the hourly rate to be awarded. These factors include the attorney’s skill and experience, the nature of the work performed, the relevant area of expertise, and the attorney’s customary billing rates. Thus, billing rates are a factor to be considered. However, in Chacon v. Litke (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 1234, 1260, the Court made clear that the trial court must determine the reasonable rate for attorneys with similar experience, and can award the reasonable rate regardless of the fact that attorneys are in house, retained on a contingent fee basis, charging at a discounted or below market rate, or even not charging at all. Thus, the fact that Defense Counsel bills at under $200/hour does not preclude the Court from awarding fees at the rate of $300/hour.
The Court finds $300/hour is an objectively reasonable rate for attorneys billing in the Los Angeles area. The Court finds the issues that were presented in this case were not extremely novel and difficult, but also were not entirely straightforward.
Plaintiff does not challenge the number of hours billed (other than by challenging the right to fees for the causes of action other than the third cause of action, discussed above). The Court therefore awards the amount of attorneys’ fees sought in their entirety.
Defendant is ordered to give notice.
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