This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 06/27/2019 at 05:36:51 (UTC).

TERI L DUGAN VS FORD MOTOR COMPANY

Case Summary

On 05/01/2018 a Contract - Other Contract case was filed by TERI L DUGAN against FORD MOTOR COMPANY in the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****4558

  • Filing Date:

    05/01/2018

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Other Contract

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

RANDOLPH M. HAMMOCK

 

Party Details

Petitioner and Plaintiff

DUGAN TERI L.

Respondents and Defendants

FORD MOTOR COMPANY

DOES 1 THROUGH 10

 

Court Documents

CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER

7/31/2018: CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER

Motion re:

12/19/2018: Motion re:

Response

1/14/2019: Response

Reply

1/18/2019: Reply

Minute Order

1/28/2019: Minute Order

Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

1/28/2019: Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

Association of Attorney

5/15/2019: Association of Attorney

Motion to Compel

6/12/2019: Motion to Compel

Declaration

6/12/2019: Declaration

Minute Order

6/14/2019: Minute Order

Motion in Limine

6/14/2019: Motion in Limine

Motion in Limine

6/14/2019: Motion in Limine

Motion in Limine

6/14/2019: Motion in Limine

CIVIL DEPOSIT

7/16/2018: CIVIL DEPOSIT

NOTICE OF CHANGE OF ADDRESS

6/27/2018: NOTICE OF CHANGE OF ADDRESS

NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

6/22/2018: NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

PROOF OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS

5/4/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS

DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

5/1/2018: DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

22 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 06/17/2019
  • at 08:30 AM in Department 47, Randolph M. Hammock, Presiding; Hearing on Ex Parte Application (REQUESTING ORDER TO CONTINUE TRIAL DATE) - Not Held - Advanced and Vacated

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  • 06/14/2019
  • at 08:30 AM in Department 47, Randolph M. Hammock, Presiding; Post-Mediation Status Conference - Held - Continued

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  • 06/14/2019
  • Minute Order ( (Post-Mediation Status Conference)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 06/14/2019
  • Motion in Limine (NO. 7 TO PREVENT ARGUMENTS BY DEFENDANT THAT DEFECTS/COMPONENTS REPAIRED AFTER A SINGLE ATTEMPT ARE NOT COUNTED FOR UNDER THE SONG- BEVERLY ACT); Filed by Teri L. Dugan (Plaintiff)

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  • 06/14/2019
  • Motion in Limine (NO. 2 TO PROHIBIT REFERENCE TO PREVIOUS SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN THE PARTIES); Filed by Teri L. Dugan (Plaintiff)

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  • 06/14/2019
  • Motion in Limine (NO. 3 TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY, ARGUMENT OR IMPLICATION THAT PLAINTIFF DID NOT MAKE SUFFICIENT EFFORTS TO ASK DEFENDANT FOR REPURCHASE OR REPLACEMENT OF THE SUBJECT VEHICLE); Filed by Teri L. Dugan (Plaintiff)

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  • 06/14/2019
  • Motion in Limine (NO. 4 TO PROHIBIT TESTIMONY OR ARGUMENT THAT DEFENDANT CONFORMED THE VEHICLE WITHIN REASONABLE NUMBER OF REPAIR ATTEMPTS BECAUSE DEFENDANT REPAIRED A PARTICULAR COMPONENT); Filed by Teri L. Dugan (Plaintiff)

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  • 06/14/2019
  • Motion in Limine (NO. 5 TO PROHIBIT FACTS, OPINIONS, OR CONCLUSIONS NOT EXPRESSED AT DEPOSITION); Filed by Teri L. Dugan (Plaintiff)

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  • 06/14/2019
  • Motion in Limine (NO. 6 TO PROHIBIT ARGUMENT BY DEFENDANTS THAT PLAINTIFF?S CONTINUED USE OF THE SUBJECT VEHICLE BARS RECOVERY OR REDUCES DAMAGES); Filed by Teri L. Dugan (Plaintiff)

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  • 06/14/2019
  • Motion in Limine (NO. 8 TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE OR ARGUMENT BY DEFENDANT AS TO LACK OF MAINTENANCE, ABUSE, OR NEGLECT); Filed by Teri L. Dugan (Plaintiff)

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31 More Docket Entries
  • 06/01/2018
  • DEFENDANT'S ANSWER TO COMPLAINT

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  • 06/01/2018
  • Answer; Filed by Ford Motor Company (Defendant)

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  • 05/23/2018
  • Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 05/23/2018
  • NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

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  • 05/04/2018
  • PROOF OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS

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  • 05/04/2018
  • Proof-Service/Summons; Filed by Teri L. Dugan (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/01/2018
  • SUMMONS

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  • 05/01/2018
  • Complaint; Filed by Teri L. Dugan (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/01/2018
  • DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

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  • 05/01/2018
  • COM PLAINT 1. VIOLATION OF SONG-BEVERLY ACT - BREACH OF EXPRESS WARRANTY ;ETC

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC704558    Hearing Date: February 03, 2020    Dept: 47

Teri L. Dugan v. Ford Motor Company, et al.

 

(1) MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES, COSTS AND EXPENSES; (2) MOTION FOR COUNSEL HACKLER, DAGHIGHIAN, MARTINO & NOVAK, P.C.’S ATTORNEYS’ FEES

MOVING PARTY: (1)-(2) Plaintiff Teri L. Dugan

RESPONDING PARTY(S): (1)-(2) Defendant Ford Motor Company

STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS AND/OR PROCEEDINGS:

This was a Song-Beverly Act case, in which Plaintiff alleged that she purchased a new 2015 Ford Edge that was defective.

The parties settled this action (Defendant accepted Plaintiff’s § 998 offer), and Plaintiff moves for an award of attorney’s fees, costs and expenses. Plaintiff also separately moves for an award of attorney’s fees to Hackler, Daghighian, Martino & Novak, P.C., which had associated in as trial counsel.

TENTATIVE RULING:

Plaintiff Teri Dugan’s motion for attorney’s fees, costs and expenses is GRANTED in the total amount of $22,500 in attorney fees and $4,645.27 in costs and expenses.

Plaintiff’s motion for counsel Hackler, Daghighian, Martino & Novak, P.C.’s attorney’s fees is GRANTED in the total amount of $6,500.

DISCUSSION:

Plaintiff’s Motion For Attorney’s Fees, Costs and Expenses

Plaintiff’s Evidentiary Objections To Declaration of Attorney Andrew S. Gahan

No. 1: OVERRULED. This information is not speculative, irrelevant, prejudicial, or argumentative; the Court has considered this information and Plaintiff’s counsel’s response to ascertain the relevant facts. Nor does the statement lack foundation.

No. 2: OVERRULED. Not speculative, irrelevant, prejudicial, argumentative, or conclusory.

No. 3: OVERRULED. Not speculative, irrelevant, or prejudicial.

Attorney’s Fees

Plaintiff moves for an award of attorney’s fees, costs and expenses in the total amount of $51,591.52, consisting of $31,297.50 in attorney’s fees and $4,645.27 in recoverable costs, plus a 0.5 multiplier enhancement ($15,648.75) on attorney’s fees.

On June 14, 2019, Defendant accepted Plaintiff’s CCP § 998 offer, under which Defendant agreed to pay Plaintiff $43,433.34, which included a full statutory “buyback” of the vehicle, incidental and consequential damages, and civil penalties. Defendant also agreed to pay “attorney fees, costs, and expenses actually and reasonably incurred in the commencement and prosecution of this action, including post-offer acceptance attorney fees, costs, and expenses incurred in performing on the settlement and/or completing the case, pursuant to Civil Code section 1794(d), which may be resolved by agreement of the parties or, if the parties cannot agree, upon properly noticed motion to the Court.” (Declaration of Steve Mikhov, Exh. D, ¶ 2.)

Plaintiff brought this action under the Song-Beverly Act, Civil Code § 1790, et seq. Plaintiff seeks fees and costs under § 1794(d), which 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.

Here, in light of the fact that Plaintiff recovered $43,433.34, Plaintiff is the prevailing party under the Song-Beverly Act.

The determination of reasonable amount of attorney’s fees is within the sound discretion of trial courts. (PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095; Akins v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 1127, 1134.) “The determination of what constitutes a reasonable fee generally ‘begins with the ‘lodestar,’ i.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate . . . .’” (Graciano v. Robinson Ford Sales, Inc. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 140, 154.) “[T]he lodestar is the basic fee for comparable legal services in the community; it may be adjusted by the court based on factors including, as relevant herein, (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, (4) the contingent nature of the fee award….” (Ibid.) In setting the hourly rate for a fee award, courts are entitled to consider the “fees customarily charged by that attorney and others in the community for similar work.” (Bihun v. AT&T Info. Sys., Inc. (1993) 13 Cal.App.4th 976, 997 [affirming rate of $450 per hour], overruled on other grounds by Lakin v. Watkins Associated Indus. (1993) 6 Cal.4th 644, 664.) The burden is on the party seeking attorney’s fees to prove the reasonableness of the fees. (Center for Biological Diversity v. County of San Bernardino (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 603, 615.)

The Court has broad discretion in determining the amount of a reasonable attorney’s fee award, which will not be overturned absent a “manifest abuse of discretion, a prejudicial error of law, or necessary findings not supported by substantial evidence.” (Bernardi v. County of Monterey (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1379, 1393-1394.) The Court need not explain its calculation of the amount of attorney’s fees awarded in detail; identifying the factors considered in arriving at the amount will suffice. (Ventura v. ABM Indus. Inc. (2012) 212 Cal.App.4th 258, 274-275.)

Here, the Court finds that counsel’s hourly rates of $200, $225, $275, $325, $350, $375, $400, $550 are reasonable (Declaration of Steve Mikhov ¶¶ 45-57), with the accompanying observation that attorneys who bill at the upper end of these hourly rates should not need to research routine issues of law and should use boilerplate when it will serve the client’s purposes. The Court takes note of the similarities between this case and other litigation filed and prosecuted by Plaintiff’s counsel. At these hourly billing rates, counsel is expected to be experienced in the area of lemon law and thus to be able to handle these cases efficiently, given their recurring factual and legal issues.

Plaintiff attached the billing records for Knight Law Group, LLP as Exhibit A to the Declaration of Attorney Steve Mikhov, reflecting a lodestar amount of $31,297.50. The Court notes that the issues in this case were applicable to other consumers’ vehicles, thereby triggering economies of scale in terms of Plaintiff’s counsel’s efficiency in litigating this type of lemon law case. Plaintiff’s counsel prepared requests for production, requests for admission, special interrogatories, and form interrogatories; however, this discovery should not have required anything more than slight factual modification to existing boilerplate, and Plaintiff’s counsel acknowledges this by noting that the firm billed only 3.1 hours for this work. (Mikhov Decl. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff’s counsel did, however, review Defendant’s discovery responses and notice and conduct depositions and defend Plaintiff’s deposition. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15, 17-18.) There was also law and motion in this case in the form of a motion to compel. (Id. ¶ 16.) In addition, Plaintiff had made an earlier § 998 offer that Defendant rejected, and therefore Plaintiff’s attorneys were faced with the prospect of going to trial. (Id. ¶ 20.) The fees of trial counsel are addressed in a separate motion discussed below.

Ultimately, this case involved perhaps more work than the average Song-Beverly case that this Court oversees, in part because Defendant maintained that it had no liability and declined Plaintiff’s earlier offers to settle the case. (Id. ¶ 93.) Defendant complains that 18% of the fees requested occurred after it accepted Plaintiff’s § 998 offer and complains that Plaintiff seeks $5,595 in connection with this motion. Preparation of a motion for attorney’s fees is no simple feat, however – the supporting documentation in terms of billing hours and activities, for example, is not something that Plaintiff’s counsel can simply recycle from previous cases. Defendant also could have avoided having those fees included in a fee award by being proactive about seeking to negotiate the fees with Plaintiff’s counsel.

Utilizing a lodestar approach, and in view of the totality of the circumstances, the Court finds that the total and reasonable amount of attorney’s fees incurred in this case for the work performed on behalf of Plaintiff is $22,500. The Court declines to award any lodestar multiplier, as the Court does not view this case, under the totality of the circumstances, as warranting the application of a multiplier to the lodestar amount.

Costs

The Act provides for the recovery by a prevailing buyer of “the aggregate amount of costs and expenses . . . reasonably incurred by the buyer.”

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(d). In addition, the prevailing plaintiff may recover expenses that are not costs recoverable under CCP § 1033.5. (Jensen v. BMW of North Am., Inc. (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 112, 137-138.)

In that Defendant did not challenge Plaintiff’s costs as set forth in the memorandum of costs attached as Exhibit B to the Declaration of Attorney Steve Mikhov, the Court will award Plaintiff her requested costs in the amount of $4,645.27.

Conclusion

The motion for attorney’s fees and costs is GRANTED in the total amount of $22,500 in attorney’s fees and $4,645.27 in costs.

Plaintiff’s Motion For Counsel Hackler, Daghigian, Martino & Novak, P.C.’s Attorneys’ Fees

Plaintiff’s Evidentiary Objections To Declaration of Attorney Andrew S. Gahan

No. 1: OVERRULED. This fact is referenced in both of Plaintiff’s motions and provides the actual basis on which Plaintiff can be considered the prevailing party and therefore entitled to fees. It is hard to imagine how it could be irrelevant, conclusory, argumentative, lack foundation, or otherwise be improper.

Attorney’s Fees

Plaintiff moves for an award of attorney’s fees in the total amount of $13,781.25 to her trial counsel Hackler, Daghighian, Martino & Novak, P.C. (“HDMN”), consisting of $9,187.50 in attorney’s fees plus a 0.5 multiplier enhancement ($4,593.75).

HDMN associated into this case on May 15, 2019. (Declaration of Sepehr Daghighian ¶ 11 & Exh. C.) With trial scheduled for July 22, 2019, and with no settlement offer from Ford at that time, the case appeared likely to go to trial. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 14.)

As in the previous motion, Plaintiff seeks fees and costs under § 1794(d), which 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.

Here, in light of the fact that Plaintiff recovered $43,433.34, Plaintiff is the prevailing party under the Song-Beverly Act.

The determination of reasonable amount of attorney’s fees is within the sound discretion of trial courts. (PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095; Akins v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 1127, 1134.) “The determination of what constitutes a reasonable fee generally ‘begins with the ‘lodestar,’ i.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate . . . .’” (Graciano v. Robinson Ford Sales, Inc. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 140, 154.) “[T]he lodestar is the basic fee for comparable legal services in the community; it may be adjusted by the court based on factors including, as relevant herein, (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, (4) the contingent nature of the fee award….” (Ibid.) In setting the hourly rate for a fee award, courts are entitled to consider the “fees customarily charged by that attorney and others in the community for similar work.” (Bihun v. AT&T Info. Sys., Inc. (1993) 13 Cal.App.4th 976, 997 [affirming rate of $450 per hour], overruled on other grounds by Lakin v. Watkins Associated Indus. (1993) 6 Cal.4th 644, 664.) The burden is on the party seeking attorney’s fees to prove the reasonableness of the fees. (Center for Biological Diversity v. County of San Bernardino (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 603, 615.)

The Court has broad discretion in determining the amount of a reasonable attorney’s fee award, which will not be overturned absent a “manifest abuse of discretion, a prejudicial error of law, or necessary findings not supported by substantial evidence.” (Bernardi v. County of Monterey (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1379, 1393-1394.) The Court need not explain its calculation of the amount of attorney’s fees awarded in detail; identifying the factors considered in arriving at the amount will suffice. (Ventura v. ABM Indus. Inc. (2012) 212 Cal.App.4th 258, 274-275.)

Here, although the Declaration of Attorney Sepehr Daghighian confusingly refers to hourly rates that were in effect before it associated into this case, the Court finds that counsel’s hourly rates – while involved in this case – of $275 and $550, with paralegal work billed at $75/hour, are reasonable (Daghighian Decl. ¶¶ 3-6), with the accompanying observation that attorneys who bill at the upper end of these hourly rates should not need to research routine issues of law and should use boilerplate when it will serve the client’s purposes. At these hourly billing rates, counsel is expected to be experienced in the area of lemon law and thus to be able to handle these cases efficiently, given their recurring factual and legal issues.

Plaintiff attached the billing records for HDMN as Exhibit A to the Declaration of Attorney Sepehr Daghighian, reflecting a lodestar amount of $9,187.50. The Court notes that the issues in this case were applicable to other consumers’ vehicles, thereby triggering economies of scale in terms of Plaintiff’s counsel’s efficiency in litigating this type of lemon law case. At the same time, HDMN spent significant time preparing for trial, including reviewing the case file and documents and preparing a trial exhibit binder, motions in limine, trial exhibits, and trial documents. (Daghighian Decl. ¶¶ 9, 14.)

Utilizing a lodestar approach, and in view of the totality of the circumstances, the Court finds that the total and reasonable amount of attorney’s fees incurred in this case for the work performed on behalf of Plaintiff is $6,500.00. The Court declines to award any lodestar multiplier, as the Court does not view this case as warranting the application of a multiplier to the lodestar amount.

Conclusion

The motion for HDMN’s attorneys’ fees is GRANTED in the amount of $6,500 in attorney’s fees.

Moving party to give notice, unless waived.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Dated: February 3, 2020 ___________________________________

Randolph M. Hammock

Judge of the Superior Court

Any party may submit on the tentative ruling by contacting the courtroom via email atSmcdept47@lacourt.org