This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 07/19/2020 at 03:31:40 (UTC).

SHAHRIAR YAZDANNIAZ VS FCA US LLC ET AL

Case Summary

On 12/14/2017 SHAHRIAR YAZDANNIAZ filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against FCA US 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 RICHARD FRUIN and YOLANDA OROZCO. The case status is Other.
Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****6906

  • Filing Date:

    12/14/2017

  • Case Status:

    Other

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Other Contract

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

RICHARD FRUIN

YOLANDA OROZCO

 

Party Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner

YAZDANNIAZ SHAHRIAR

Respondents and Defendants

ORANGE COAST CHRYSLER JEEP DODGE

FCA US LLC

DOES 1 THROUGH 10

ORANGE COAST AUTO GROUP LLC

ORANGE COAST AUTO GROUP LLC AKA ORANGE COAST CHYRSLER JEEP DODGE

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorneys

KNIGHT LAW GROUP LLP

LEAR EDWARD O

MIKHOV STEVE

LEAR EDWARD O.

Respondent and Defendant Attorneys

NIXON PEABODY LLP

GILEFSKY JUDD A.

SCHWARTZ-TUDZIN LISA

HUGHES SAMANTHA J.

 

Court Documents

Declaration - DECLARATION OF AMY MORSE IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

12/6/2018: Declaration - DECLARATION OF AMY MORSE IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

Motion for Leave - MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

12/6/2018: Motion for Leave - MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

Memorandum of Points & Authorities

6/28/2019: Memorandum of Points & Authorities

Declaration - DECLARATION OF A. MORSE ISO MTC RFP SET TWO

6/28/2019: Declaration - DECLARATION OF A. MORSE ISO MTC RFP SET TWO

Motion to Compel Further Discovery Responses

6/28/2019: Motion to Compel Further Discovery Responses

Separate Statement

6/28/2019: Separate Statement

Stipulation and Order to use Certified Shorthand Reporter

7/3/2019: Stipulation and Order to use Certified Shorthand Reporter

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE THE TRIAL PER STI...)

7/3/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE THE TRIAL PER STI...)

Ex Parte Application - EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE THE TRIAL PER STIPULATION

7/3/2019: Ex Parte Application - EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE THE TRIAL PER STIPULATION

Declaration - DECLARATION OF SAMANTHA J HUGHES ESQ RE SETTLEMENT IN ADVANCE OF AUGUST 14 2019 HEARING ON PLAINTIFFS MOTION TO COMPEL

8/1/2019: Declaration - DECLARATION OF SAMANTHA J HUGHES ESQ RE SETTLEMENT IN ADVANCE OF AUGUST 14 2019 HEARING ON PLAINTIFFS MOTION TO COMPEL

Notice of Settlement

8/8/2019: Notice of Settlement

Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER) OF 08/08/2019

8/8/2019: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER) OF 08/08/2019

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER)

8/8/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER)

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

11/22/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: DISMISSAL (SETTLEMENT))

Notice of Ruling

11/22/2019: Notice of Ruling

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER)

12/4/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER)

Memorandum of Costs (Summary)

12/18/2019: Memorandum of Costs (Summary)

Notice of Motion - NOTICE OF MOTION PLAINTIFFS NOTICE OF MOTION & MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS FEES, COSTS AND EXPENSES

12/18/2019: Notice of Motion - NOTICE OF MOTION PLAINTIFFS NOTICE OF MOTION & MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS FEES, COSTS AND EXPENSES

81 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 05/15/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 31, Yolanda Orozco, Presiding; Order to Show Cause Re: Dismissal (Settlement) - Not Held - Vacated by Court

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  • 04/14/2020
  • DocketRequest for Dismissal; Filed by Shahriar Yazdanniaz (Plaintiff)

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  • 04/02/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 31, Yolanda Orozco, Presiding; Order to Show Cause Re: Dismissal (Settlement) - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court

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  • 03/18/2020
  • DocketNotice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order; Filed by Clerk

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  • 03/10/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 31, Yolanda Orozco, Presiding; Order to Show Cause Re: Dismissal (Settlement) - Held - Continued

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  • 03/10/2020
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Order to Show Cause Re: Dismissal (Settlement))); Filed by Clerk

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  • 03/03/2020
  • DocketNotice ( OF ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE DISMISSAL); Filed by Shahriar Yazdanniaz (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/27/2020
  • DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by Shahriar Yazdanniaz (Plaintiff)

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  • 01/16/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 31, Yolanda Orozco, Presiding; Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees - Held - Motion Granted

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  • 01/16/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 31, Yolanda Orozco, Presiding; Order to Show Cause Re: Dismissal (Settlement) - Held - Continued

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125 More Docket Entries
  • 12/22/2017
  • DocketMinute order entered: 2017-12-22 00:00:00; Filed by Clerk

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  • 12/22/2017
  • DocketMinute Order

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  • 12/21/2017
  • DocketProof-Service/Summons; Filed by Shahriar Yazdanniaz (Plaintiff)

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  • 12/21/2017
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 12/20/2017
  • DocketChallenge To Judicial Officer - Peremptory (170.6); Filed by Shahriar Yazdanniaz (Plaintiff)

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  • 12/20/2017
  • DocketAFFIDAVIT OF PREJUDICE PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE TO JUDICIAL OFFICER (CODE CLV. PROC., 170.6)

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  • 12/14/2017
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Shahriar Yazdanniaz (Plaintiff)

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  • 12/14/2017
  • DocketSUMMONS

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  • 12/14/2017
  • DocketCOMPLAINT 1. VIOLATION OF SONG-BEVERLY ACT - BREACH OF EXPRESS WARRANTY; ETC.

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  • 12/14/2017
  • DocketDEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: ****6906 Hearing Date: March 8, 2022 Dept: 31

MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES

Background

This is a lemon law action.

On November 1, 2018, Plaintiff Kimberly Martinez Garcia (“Plaintiff “) filed the instant suit against Defendant Ford Motor Company (“Defendant”) and Does 1 through 50. The complaint includes three causes of action:

(1) Breach of Express Warranty – Violation of Song-Beverly Act;

(2) Breach of Implied Warranty – Violation of Song-Beverly Act; and

(3) Violation of the Song-Beverly Act Section 1793.2.

On October 27, 2021, Plaintiff filed a notice of settlement.

On February 7, 2022, Plaintiff filed a memorandum of costs.

Plaintiff now moves for attorney fees and costs in the total amount of $90,518.08. This amount consists of: (1) $64,709.50 in attorney fees not including work after the filing of this motion and $5,000.00 to review Defendant’s opposition, draft the reply, attend the hearing on this fee motion, and to draft an opposition to Defendant’s expected motion to tax costs and prepare for a hearing on the same; (2) $4,631.20 in recoverable costs and expenses; and (3) $16,177.38 for a 1.25 multiplier enhancement lodestar multiplier on the attorney fees as of the filing of the motion, i.e., no multiplier enhancement for post-motion work.

Defendant opposes and Plaintiff filed a reply.

Legal Standard

Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1033.5, subdivision (a)(10)(B), attorney fees when authorized by statute are allowable as costs and may be awarded upon a noticed motion pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1033.5, subdivision (c)(5).

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 (Ketchum).)

The attorney bears the burden of proof as to “reasonableness” of any fee claim. (Code Civ. Proc., 1033.5, subd. (c)(5).) 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.) “Testimony of an attorney as to the number of hours worked on a particular case is sufficient evidence to support an award of attorney fees, even in the absence of detailed time records.” (Ibid.)

A plaintiff’s verified billing invoices are prima facie evidence that the costs, expenses, and services listed were necessarily incurred. (See Hadley v. Krepel (1985) 167 Cal.App.3d 677, 682.) “In challenging attorney fees as excessive because too many hours of work are claimed, it is the burden of the challenging party to point to the specific items challenged, with a sufficient argument and citations to the evidence. General arguments that fees claimed are excessive, duplicative, or unrelated do not suffice.” (Lunada Biomedical v. Nunez (2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 459, 488, quoting Premier Med. Mgmt. Sys., Inc. v. California Ins. Guarantee Ass’n (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 550, 564.)

Request for Judicial Notice and Evidentiary Objections

Plaintiff requests the Court to take judicial notice of certain court filings that reflect certain determinations of her counsel’s sought fees in other lemon law actions. Defendant opposes and asserts evidentiary objections to the same documents. While court filings are the proper subject of judicial notice, the documents here are largely irrelevant and have minimal persuasive value because they involve difference circumstances. Therefore, the Court only takes judicial notice that Plaintiff’s counsel has litigated other lemon law actions.

Based on the same reasoning, the documents are irrelevant to the Court’s ultimate ruling. Therefore, the Court declines to rule upon the evidentiary objections.

Discussion

Plaintiff is the prevailing party in this lemon law action pursuant to the parties’ settlement agreement and is therefore entitled to fees. The parties dispute the amount of fees.

Hourly Rate

The parties dispute whether the sought rates are reasonable.

Generally, the reasonable hourly rate used for the lodestar calculation is the rate prevailing in the community for similar work. (Center for Biological Diversity v. County of San Bernardino (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 603, 616.) 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, the difficulty or complexity of the litigation to which that skill was applied, and affidavits from other attorneys regarding prevailing fees in the community and rate determinations in other cases. (569 East County Boulevard LLC v. Backcountry Against the Dump, Inc. (2016) 6 Cal.App.5th 426, 437.)

Plaintiff’s counsel, Consumer Law Experts, PC, had three attorneys work on the matter at the following rates: (1) Eleazar Kim at $400 per hour in 2018-2019 and $415 per hour in 2020; (2) Daniel Choi at $400 per hour; and (3) Long Cao at $325 per hour. Plaintiff submits sufficient details about the counsel’s experience justifying these sought rates. (See generally Choi Decl. 58; Kim Decl. 3-9.)

In opposition, Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s counsel’s hourly rates are excessive. Defendant argues that the Court should follow the precedent in Mikhaeilpoor v. BMW of North America, LLC (2020) 48 Cal.App.5th 240 to find that reasonable rates here should be only $350 per hour. Defendant fails to explain how the circumstances are the same here as in the BMW case. Therefore, the Court has no reason to adjust its previous finding that the stated rates are justified.

Accordingly, the Court deems the rates as reasonable.

Reasonable Hours Incurred

The bulk of Defendant’s opposition is focused on whether Plaintiff excessively billed tasks for this simple lemon law case.

First, Defendant argues that the Court should not award Plaintiff any fees and costs after Defendant’s December 7, 2018 Code of Civil Procedure section 998 statutory offer. (Choi Decl. Ex. 4.) Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s counsel’s fees after this offer were not reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation because Plaintiff ultimately accepted a later offer. More specifically, Defendant argues that its December 7, 2018 offer was for $22,037.00 inclusive of fees and costs and had Plaintiff accepted the offer Plaintiff would have received $15,477.00 following a reduction of counsel’s fees of $6,560.00.

However, Plaintiff accepted a later CCP section 998 offer in October 2021 (Choi Decl. Ex. 6) for $22,000.00 not inclusive of fees that resulted in a modest increase in the offer while Plaintiff’s counsel incurred approximately $50,000.00 more in fees. Defendant’s argument is not persuasive. Defendant’s first offer was at the outset of the case. Plaintiff’s counsel had a right to assess the offer’s reasonableness through additional litigation, including discovery. (Licudine v. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (2019) 30 Cal.App.5th 918, 925.)

Additionally, Plaintiff stares that there were fundamental issues with the original offer including vagueness about material terms, which were the basis of objections at that time (Choi Decl. Ex. 5), that rendered the offer invalid and/or unfavorable. Plaintiff’s rejection of the first offer was reasonable and Plaintiff can collect fees and costs after that offer.

Finally, Defendant is incorrect on the merits of the offers. The first offer was inclusive of costs and fees and the second was not. The second offer resulted in a substantially better result for Plaintiff. Plaintiff’s continued litigation in the action justifiably resulted in a better result and the Court cannot reduce an attorney fee reward for Plaintiff’s failure to settle when the ultimate recovery exceeds the settlement offer. (Reck v. FCA US LLC (2021) 64 Cal.App.5th 682, 693, 697-698.) Accordingly, the Court may award fees and costs incurred after the December 7, 2018 offer.

Second, Defendant argues that the Court should reduce the lodestar by $7,360.00 because of Plaintiff’s improper value billing, i.e., billing the value of what the task should be without recognizing that the work involved standardized documents or templates. The Court disagrees. Defendant proffers no evidence that Plaintiff’s counsel did not work the hours claimed. Plaintiff’s counsel does have lemon law experience, but that does not mean all work completed is routine. The verified fee bill is prima facie evidence that the tasks completed were necessary and accurate. The Court sees no reason to conclude otherwise. Accordingly, no reduction will be made on these grounds.

Third, Defendant argues that the Court should reduce the lodestar by $3,204.05 because of Plaintiff’s improper redacted billing. Defendant fails to identify any of the specific entries; however, the Court reviewed the billing invoices (Choi Decl. Ex. 20) and the redactions which related to communication with Plaintiff, reviewing Defendant’s supplemental document production to analyze an unspecified issue, and reviewing the case for settlement negotiations/mediations.

The Court agrees with Defendant in substantial part. More specifically, the Court finds that Plaintiff should only be able to obtain attorney fees for communication with his counsel. It is unclear how the review of the case including the supplemental document production advances the case because Plaintiff does not identify the issue or brief this issue in reply. Regarding reviewing a case to prepare for settlement negotiations, Plaintiff’s counsel had or should have had knowledge about this case sufficient to engage in settlement discussions. It is unreasonable to award fees for further examination of the case when counsel should already know the case well. Plaintiff also concedes this issue by not briefing the issue in reply.

Accordingly, the Court reduces the lodestar by $2,000.00 for this issue ($720.00 in fees for July 20, 2021; $160.00 for July 26, 2021; $240.00 for September 23, 2021; $360.00 for October 7, 2021; $240.00 for October 12, 2021; and $280.00 for October 13, 2021).

Accordingly, the Court finds a total lodestar of $67,709.50 is reasonable.

Lodestar Multiplier

The parties dispute whether the Court should award Plaintiff’s requested 1.25 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 (Serrano).)

Nonetheless, the court must not consider extraordinary skill and the other Serrano factors to the extent these are already included with the lodestar. (Ketchum, supra, 24 Cal.4th at pp. 1138-1139.) “[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.” (Id. at p. 1139.)

Here, Plaintiff argues that a 1.25 lodestar multiplier is warranted primarily because of the contingent nature of this case and Plaintiff’s skill in litigating the matter to obtain a favorable result.

The award already takes into account the fact that Plaintiff’s counsel worked on a contingency, as required by Ketchum. Plaintiff has not proffered any evidence to show that Plaintiff’s counsel was precluded from actually taking other employment opportunities because of the nature of this case, nor has counsel even argued this. Additionally, there is nothing before the Court to suggest that this was not a relatively straightforward lemon law case, an area in which Plaintiff’s counsel specializes, or that required it extraordinary legal skill and/or required counsel to bear unnecessary risk. Further, there was nothing novel or complex. No multiplier is therefore warranted.

Accordingly, the Court declines to apply a multiplier.

Costs

Plaintiff seeks $4,631.20 in recoverable costs and expenses having filed a memorandum of costs on February 7, 2022. Defendant does not object to the costs, other than to the costs after the initial settlement offer. Defendant has not filed a motion to tax the costs, and therefore, the Court awards the full amount of sought costs.

Conclusion

Plaintiff’s motion for attorney fees is GRANTED in part. The Court awards Plaintiff attorney fees in the amount of $67,709.50 and costs in the amount of $4,631.20 for a total of $72,340.70 in attorney fees and costs.

The parties are strongly encouraged to attend all scheduled hearings virtually or by audio. Effective July 20, 2020, all matters will be scheduled virtually and/or with audio through the Court’s LACourtConnect technology. The parties are strongly encouraged to use LACourtConnect for all their matters. All masking protocols will be observed at the Courthouse and in the courtrooms.



Case Number: ****6906    Hearing Date: January 16, 2020    Dept: 31

MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES IS GRANTED, IN PART

Background

On December 14, 2017, Plaintiff Shahriar Yazdanniaz filed the instant suit against Defendants FCA US LLC, Orange Coast Auto Group, LLC, and Does 1 through 10. On January 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). The FAC asserts causes of action for:

  1. Breach of Express Warranty – Violation of Song-Beverly Act;

  2. Breach of Implied Warranty – Violation of Song-Beverly Act;

  3. Violation of the Song-Beverly Act Section 1793.2; and

  4. Fraudulent Inducement – Concealment.

On August 8, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Settlement of Entire Case and has filed this motion for fees.

Legal Standard

Attorneys’ fees are allowed as costs when authorized by contract, statute, or law. (Code Civ. Proc, ; 1033.5, subd. (a)(10)(B).)

In a lemon law action, costs and expenses, including attorney’s fees, may be recovered by a prevailing buyer under the Song-Beverly Act. (See Civ. Code, ; 1794(d).) Section 1794 provides:

If 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 [emphasis added].) Thus, the statute includes a “reasonable attorney’s fees” standard.

The attorney bears the burden of proof as to “reasonableness” of any fee claim. (Code Civ. Proc., ; 1033.5(c)(5).) 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.) “Testimony of an attorney as to the number of hours worked on a particular case is sufficient evidence to support an award of attorney fees, even in the absence of detailed time records.” (Id.)

A plaintiff’s verified billing invoices are prima facie evidence that the costs, expenses, and services listed were necessarily incurred. (See Hadley v. Krepel (1985) 167 Cal.App.3d 677, 682.) “In challenging attorney fees as excessive because too many hours of work are claimed, it is the burden of the challenging party to point to the specific items challenged, with a sufficient argument and citations to the evidence. General arguments that fees claimed are excessive, duplicative, or unrelated to not suffice.” (Lunada Biomedical v. Nunez (2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 459, 488, quoting Premier Med. Mgmt. Sys., Inc. v. California Ins. Guarantee Ass’n (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 550, 564.)

Evidentiary Objections

Defendants submit a number of objections to the Declarations of Steve Mikhov and Edward O. Lear.

Plaintiff also submits a number of objections to the Declaration of Samantha J. Hughes.

The objections are immaterial to the Court’s disposition. The Court therefore declines to rule upon them.

Discussion

Plaintiff seeks attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $74,454.75 consisting of $45,801.25 in attorneys’ fees, $5,752.87 in costs, and a lodestar multiplier of 0.5 for an additional $22,900.63.

Hourly Rate

“The reasonable hourly rate is that prevailing in the community for similar work.” (PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095.) “The experienced trial judge is the best judge of the value of professional services rendered in [her] court.” (Ibid.)

Plaintiff seeks to recover attorneys’ fees for 14 different attorneys who worked on the case. Their hourly rates are as follows:

For each of the attorneys, attorneys Steve Mikhov and Edward Lear attest to their legal experience and the reasonableness of their rates. (Mikhov Decl. ¶ 16-27; Lear Decl. ¶ 2-9.)

In opposition, Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s counsel’s hourly rates are excessive. Defendants assert that Plaintiff’s attorneys padded their bills by overstaffing what was otherwise a routine lemon law case with fourteen attorneys from three law firms. Citing to Morris v. Hyundai Motors America ((2019) Cal.App.5th 24), Defendants contend that the Court should reduce Plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees by limiting the billing to one partner and two associates from the Knight Law Group. Defendants argue that Knight Law Group should be limited to the $23,035.00 in billing by partner Amy Morse and associates Kristina Stephenson-Cheang and George Aguilar, with Ms. Cheang’s rate reduced to $300 per hour. Defendants assert that Century Law Group’s fees should be limited to those generated by partner Edward O. Lear and associate Rizza Gonzales with Mr. Lear’s rate reduced to $400 per hour and Ms. Gonzales’ rate reduced to $300 per hour for total billing of $2,780.00.

In reply, Plaintiff argues that Defendants have not provided any actual evidence suggesting that the requested rates are improper. Plaintiff asserts that the Morris case cited by Defendants involves substantially different facts and circumstances than those here.

The Court finds that the hourly rates requested by Plaintiffs are reasonable and commensurate with rates charged by attorneys with comparable skill and expertise. The rates suggested by Defendant are not supported by any evidence and thus the Court declines to adjust the rates as requested.

Reasonable Hours Incurred

“A trial court assessing attorney fees begins with a touchstone or lodestar figure, based on the ‘careful compilation of the time spent and reasonable hourly compensation of each attorney ... involved in the presentation of the case.” (Christian Research Institute v. Alnor (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1315, 1321.) “The reasonableness of attorney fees is within the discretion of the trial court, to be determined from a consideration of such factors as the nature of the litigation, the complexity of the issues, the experience and expertise of counsel and the amount of time involved. The court may also consider whether the amount requested is based upon unnecessary or duplicative work.” (Wilkerson v. Sullivan (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 443, 448.)

While not per se objectionable, block billing can exacerbate the vagueness of an attorney fee request and support a court’s finding that time entries were inflated and non-compensable. (Christian Research Institute v. Alnor (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1315, 1325-1326.)

Plaintiff’s counsel provides detailed billing records for this case. (Mihkov Decl., Exh. A; Lear Decl., Exh. A.) Plaintiff seeks attorneys’ fees in the amount of $45,801.25. Plaintiff argues that this case required a range of specialized knowledge, including: (1) an understanding of the full scope of consumer protection laws, which are highly nuanced; (2) knowledge of the intricacies of automobiles and the lexicon associated with them, as well as knowledge concerning how to investigate issues with automobiles; and (3) knowledge of auto manufacturers’ and dealers’ policies and protocols for repairing vehicles and complying with their legal obligations. (Mihkov Decl., ¶ 60.) Plaintiff contends that counsel acquired knowledge and insight about these over the course of many years of litigation, and this experience typically results in significantly higher judgments or settlements for their clients, like Plaintiff here.

Plaintiff argues that Defendants should have acknowledged the defects in Plaintiffs’ vehicle and resolved the matter before this case was ever filed. Plaintiff asserts that instead, Defendants engaged in expensive litigation, including denying all liability, engaging in extensive discovery, and forcing Plaintiff’s counsel to expend numerous hours preparing for trial. Plaintiff contends that with little effort, Defendants could have resolved this matter much earlier and saved tens of thousands in attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses by doing so. Plaintiff argues that Defendants ultimately capitulated, but not before causing substantial fees to be incurred. Plaintiff asserts that when Defendants cause the entirety of fees to be incurred, they have no legitimate basis for complaining about the amount of attorneys’ fees reasonably and actually incurred, especially when Defendants had the opportunity to resolve the matter before a lawsuit was even filed.

In opposition, Defendants argue that numerous time entries submitted by Plaintiff’s counsel contain entries that lump together several tasks. Defendants assert that the amount of hours block billed amount to 39.45 hours and $15,511.25 in fees. Defendants contend that because it is not clear from the entries provided how much time counsel spent on necessary tasks related to the prosecution of Plaintiff’s Song-Beverly causes of action, as opposed to administrative tasks, other non-legal tasks, and objectionable tasks, the Court should invoke its discretion and reduce Plaintiff’s counsel’s claimed hours and fees significantly.

Defendants additionally argue that the amount of work attributed in Plaintiff’s motion to many tasks appears to reflect what counsel believes the “value” of that task should be, not the actual time spent. Defendants assert that the hours that were value billed amount to 22.3 hours and $8,120.00 in fees.

Defendants contend that Plaintiff is also not entitled to attorneys’ fees under Code Section 1794(d) for non-Song-Beverly causes of action or unnecessary litigation. For example, Plaintiff seeks attorneys’ fee incurred in connection with amending the complaint to allege a cause of action for fraud and for the drafting of fifteen (15) motions in limine that Plaintiff failed to file or serve. Defendants assert that the fees incurred as a result of amending the complaint to allege a fraud cause of action are not recoverable as a fraud cause of action is separate and apart from Plaintiff’s breach of warranty claims and therefore not recoverable under the plain language of Civil Code section 1794(d). As to the motions in limine, Defendants contend that because Plaintiff never filed any motions in limine, they could not have been necessary to the prosecution of Plaintiff’s Song-Beverly claims.

In reply, Plaintiff argues that Defendants fail to rebut that reasonableness presumption afforded by Plaintiff’s fee bill. Plaintiff asserts that rather than carry its burden and offer evidence disputing Plaintiff’s showing, Defendants incorrectly try to place the burden on Plaintiff. As to Defendants’ arguments regarding block-billing, Plaintiff contends that the items Defendants identify as block billing are not examples of block billing, but instead describe the work performed by the attorney. As to Defendants’ argument regarding value billing, Plaintiff argues that Defendants contention is not supported. Finally, as to Defendants’ arguments regarding work related to non-Song-Beverly causes of action, Plaintiff asserts that the filing and defense of the FAC cannot be extricated from the prosecution of the Song-Beverly Act claims. Plaintiff contends that moreover, the 998 accepted by Defendant sets forth “Defendants shall pay attorney fees, costs, and expenses actually and reasonably incurred in the commencement and prosecution of this action.” (Mikhov Decl., Exh. D, E.) Plaintiff argues that they cannot now seek to undo the bargain it entered into by now arguing that the attorneys’ fees related to “prosecution of this action” somehow does not include prosecution of the fraud cause of action. Finally, as to the motions in limine, Plaintiff asserts that the motions were prepared in December 2018 when trial was scheduled to commence on March 11, 2019, with an FSC on March 1, 2019. Plaintiff contends that it is not inappropriate for counsel to prepare motions in limine in advance of the trial date.

The Court finds that the amount of fees request is unreasonable. First, as to the fee motion, the Court is not persuaded that Plaintiff will incur an additional 5 hours reviewing the opposition, preparing a reply, and preparing for and attending the hearing on the motion. Accordingly, a total of $800 representing 2 hours billed has been deducted from the total amount of fees requested.

The Court additionally finds that Plaintiff’s counsel billed for time wherein one attorney was responsible for attending a hearing or deposition and another attorney was responsible for reviewing the transcript and drafting a summary. The Court finds such time is duplicative and therefore unreasonable. Accordingly, a total of $937.50 representing 2.5 hours billed has been deducted from the total amount of fees requested.

As to Defendants arguments regarding block-billing, value billing, and entries related to Plaintiff’s fraud cause of action and motions in limine, the Court finds that such time was reasonably incurred, billed, and recorded and was contemplated by the parties’ settlement agreement. Accordingly, Plaintiff may thus recover for such time. It appears to the Court that Plaintiff’s counsel delegated tasks to attorneys with lower rates to ensure Plaintiff was appropriately billed.

Having analyzed the motions and pleadings filed, and having reviewed the billing statements provided, the Court determines that a reasonable lodestar in this case, to limit any duplicative and excessive fees, is $44,063.75.

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.)

Nonetheless, the court must not consider extraordinary skill and the other Serrano factors to the extent these are already included with the lodestar. (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal. 4th 1122, 1138-1139.) “[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.” (Id. at 1139.)

Plaintiff seeks a lodestar multiplier of 0.5 in the additional amount of $22,900.63. Plaintiff argues that throughout the litigation, there always existed the possibility that Plaintiff would not prevail. Plaintiff asserts that the risk was further compounded by the fact that Plaintiff’s attorneys advanced all litigation costs and expenses without reimbursement. Plaintiff contends that if he did not prevail, his attorneys would have suffered a substantial loss of uncompensated attorney hours and thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. Plaintiff argues that he requests a 0.2 enhancement based on that risk.

Plaintiff further argues that Defendants dragged this case out for nearly two years before agreeing to a reasonable settlement offer proposed by Plaintiff. Plaintiff asserts that his attorneys are not paid at all if they lose, and need to absorb significant delay in being paid if Plaintiff does win. On account of the substantial delay in payment, Plaintiff requests a 0.3 enhancement.

In opposition, Defendants argue that each of the factors Plaintiff cites commands that the attorneys’ fees claimed should be adjusted downward. Defendants assert that this was a routine lemon law case that did not present novel issues or preclude Plaintiff’s counsel from handling any other cases while they litigated this case. Defendants contend that moreover, this case did not proceed to trial. Defendants argue that such circumstances do not amount to a rare and exceptional case justifying a multiplier.

The Court finds that under the circumstances of this case, a lodestar multiplier is not appropriate. Nothing before the Court indicates that the case presented novel issues or that the quality of representation far exceeded the quality of representation that would have been provided by attorneys of comparable skill and experience billing at the same rates. While Plaintiff argues that counsel accepted the case only on a contingency basis, the Court finds that such considerations and risks are already included within the lodestar amount.

Based on the foregoing, the Court declines to award a lodestar multiplier.

Costs

Allowable costs “shall be reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation rather than merely convenient or beneficial to its preparation.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 1033.5, subd. (c)(2).) Any items not specifically mentioned by statute “may be allowed or denied in the court's discretion.” (Id., subd. (c)(4).)

'“If the items appear to be proper charges the verified memorandum is prima facie evidence that the costs, expenses and services therein listed were necessarily incurred by the defendant [citations], and the burden of showing that an item is not properly chargeable or is unreasonable is upon the [objecting party].' [Citation.]” (Nelson v. Anderson (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 111, 131.) The Court therefore first determines if the statute expressly allows for the item, and whether it appears proper on its face. If so, “the burden is on the objecting party to show them to be unnecessary or unreasonable.” (Id.)

The Beverly-Song Act allows a successful plaintiff to recover both “costs” and “expenses.” (See Civ. Code, ; 1794, subd. (d).) Courts have held that “it is clear the Legislature intended the word ‘expenses' to cover items not included in the detailed statutory definition of ‘costs.”’ (Jensen v. BMW of North America, Inc. (“Jensen”) (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 112, 137.) The court in Jensen held that “[t]he legislative history indicates the Legislature exercised its power to permit the recovery of expert witness fees by prevailing buyers under the Act … ,” noting that the legislature included “expenses” in the lemon law act because '“[t]he addition of awards of “costs and expenses” by the court to the consumer to cover such out-of-pocket expenses as filing fees, expert witness fees, marshall’s fees, etc., should open the litigation process to everyone.’ [Citation.]”

Plaintiff seeks costs in the amount of $5,752.87. Defendants do not challenge Plaintiff’s costs.

The Court finds that Plaintiff is entitled to costs sought under Civil Code section 1794. The Court thus awards Plaintiff costs in the amount of $5,752.87.

Conclusion

Plaintiff’s motion for attorney fees is GRANTED in part. The Court awards Plaintiff attorneys’ fees in the amount of $44,063.75 and costs in the amount of $5,752.87, for a total of $49,816.62 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

Moving party to give notice.



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