This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 07/12/2019 at 01:02:02 (UTC).

VIRGINIE NORWOOD VS FCA US LLC ET AL

Case Summary

On 05/07/2018 a Contract - Other Contract case was filed by VIRGINIE NORWOOD against FCA US LLC 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:

    ****5227

  • Filing Date:

    05/07/2018

  • 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

 

Party Details

Petitioner and Plaintiff

NORWOOD VIRGINIE

Respondents and Defendants

FCA US LLC

ORANGE COAST CHRYSLER JEEP DODGE RAM

DOES 1 THROUGH 10

 

Court Documents

NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

5/29/2018: NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE AND FURTHER CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER AND NOTICE FROM DEPT. 73

6/4/2018: NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE AND FURTHER CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER AND NOTICE FROM DEPT. 73

CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT

8/14/2018: CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT

ANSWER TO COMPLAINT

8/15/2018: ANSWER TO COMPLAINT

CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT

8/15/2018: CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT

CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER

8/31/2018: CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER

Minute Order

8/31/2018: Minute Order

CIVIL DEPOSIT

9/4/2018: CIVIL DEPOSIT

Motion to Compel

11/28/2018: Motion to Compel

Notice

2/6/2019: Notice

Order

2/13/2019: Order

Minute Order

2/13/2019: Minute Order

Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

6/3/2019: Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

PROOF OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS

5/10/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS

PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

5/10/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

SUMMONS

5/7/2018: SUMMONS

COMPLAINT FOR VIOLATION OF STATUTORY OBLIGATIONS

5/7/2018: COMPLAINT FOR VIOLATION OF STATUTORY OBLIGATIONS

5 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 06/03/2019
  • Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order; Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/13/2019
  • at 08:30 AM in Department 73; Hearing on Motion to Compel Deposition (of Plaintiff and Request for Sanctions in the Amount of $1,260.00) - Held - Motion Granted

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  • 02/13/2019
  • Order (Defendant's Motion to Compel the Deposition of Plaintiff); Filed by FCA US, LLC (Defendant); Orange Coast Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram (Defendant)

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  • 02/13/2019
  • Minute Order ( (Hearing on Motion to Compel Deposition of Plaintiff and Reque...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/06/2019
  • Notice (OF NON-OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS'S MOTION TO COMPEL DEPOSITION OF PLAINTIFF); Filed by FCA US, LLC (Defendant); Orange Coast Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram (Defendant)

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  • 11/28/2018
  • Motion To Compel Deposition of Plaintiff; Filed by FCA US, LLC (Defendant)

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  • 09/04/2018
  • CIVIL DEPOSIT

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  • 09/04/2018
  • Receipt; Filed by Virginie Norwood (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/31/2018
  • at 08:30 AM in Department 73; Case Management Conference (Conference-Case Management; Trial Date Set) -

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  • 08/31/2018
  • Case Management Order; Filed by Court

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10 More Docket Entries
  • 06/04/2018
  • NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE AND FURTHER CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER AND NOTICE FROM DEPT. 73

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  • 05/29/2018
  • NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

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  • 05/29/2018
  • Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 05/10/2018
  • PROOF OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS

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  • 05/10/2018
  • Proof-Service/Summons

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  • 05/10/2018
  • Proof-Service/Summons; Filed by Virginie Norwood (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/10/2018
  • PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 05/07/2018
  • SUMMONS

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  • 05/07/2018
  • COMPLAINT FOR VIOLATION OF STATUTORY OBLIGATIONS

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  • 05/07/2018
  • Complaint; Filed by Virginie Norwood (Plaintiff)

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC705227    Hearing Date: March 12, 2020    Dept: 73

3/12/20

Dept. 73

Rafael Ongkeko, Judge presiding

VIRGINIE NORWOOD v. FCA US LLC, et al. (BC705227)

Counsel for plaintiff: Jacob Cutler (Strategic, etc.)

Counsel for defendants FCA US LLC and Orange Coast Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram: Matthew Proudfoot (Gates, etc.)

MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES, COSTS, AND EXPENSES (filed 2/19/20)

TENTATIVE RULING

1. Plaintiff’s motion for attorney fees is GRANTED in part; DENIED in part. Reasonable attorney’s fees are awarded in favor of Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s counsel in the amount of $25,911.50.

2. The court grants Plaintiff’s request for costs in the amount of $2,513.29.

3. Plaintiff’s evidentiary objections are overruled.

4. The court sets an Order to Show Cause re entry of dismissal in 30 days: ________.

No appearance is required if the dismissal has been entered.

Discussion

In this lemon law action filed on 5/7/18 against the manufacturer and dealer, Plaintiff Virginie Norwood alleged statutory violations, breach of express and implied warranty, and fraud by omission in connection with her purchase of a new 2012 Chrysler 200.

On 4/16/19, the case (exclusive of fees and costs) settled for $99,000 when Plaintiff accepted defendant’s 998 offer served on 2/28/19. On 7/24/19 Plaintiff filed a Notice of Settlement of Entire Case, which was untrue because the parties failed to resolve their fee dispute during the intervening 7-month period between the NOS and this motion. Thus, on February 19, 2020, Plaintiff filed this fee motion. Plaintiff seeks $50,761.25 in fees and $2,590.16 in costs, a total of $53,351.41. The attorney fee requested is based on $31,507.50 for work to the date of the motion—plus a 1.5 multiplier ($15,753.75)—and $3,500 for work after 2/19/20.

A. Fee Motion

Evidentiary Objections

Plaintiff’s Evidentiary Objections to the Declaration of Matthew M. Proudfoot Nos. 1-13 are OVERRULED.

Request for Judicial Notice

Plaintiff’s Request for Judicial Notice of trial court rulings in other lemon law actions is GRANTED. However, the court emphasizes that these documents have little to no persuasive value here.

Entitlement to Fees as Prevailing Party- No issue.

Reasonableness of Attorney Fees, Costs, and Expenses

The calculation of attorneys’ fees under the Song-Beverly Act is based on the lodestar method, which multiplies the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate. (Graciano v. Robinson Ford Sales (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 140, 154; Robertson v. Fleetwood Travel Trailers of California, Inc. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 785, 817-819.) “The 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. (Graciano, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th at 154.) “The purpose of such adjustment is to fix a fee at the fair market value for the particular action.” (Ibid.) “In effect, the court determines, retrospectively, whether the litigation involved a contingent risk or required extraordinary legal skill justifying augmentation of the unadorned lodestar in order to approximate the fair market rate for such services.” (Ibid.) An attorney’s time spent and hourly rate are presumed to be reasonable. (Mandel v. Lackner (1979) 92 Cal.App.3d 747, 761.)

Although an attorney’s fee arrangement with his or her client may also have some bearing on lodestar adjustment, it does not compel any particular award. (PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000), 22 Cal.4th1084, 1096; see Vella v. Hudgins (1984) 151 Cal.App.3d 515, 521.) Indeed, an award of attorney fees to a prevailing plaintiff in an amount greater than plaintiff actually incurred under a contingency agreement may even be proper. (See Persson v. Smart Inventions, Inc. (2005) 125 Cal.App.4th 1141, 1172–1176 [contingency agreement did not bar plaintiff’s recovery of reasonable attorney fees provided under stock redemption agreement between the parties and amount was not limited to fees actually incurred].)

The chart below lists the 7 timekeepers, their rates, and hours expended:

Name

2018 Hourly Rate

2019 Hourly Rate

2020 Hourly Rate

Hours

Amount

Gregory Yu (“GY”)

$550

8.3

$4,565.00

Jacob Cutler (“JC”)

n/a

$435

n/a

1.3

$565.50

Jacob Cutler (“JC”)

n/a

n/a

$460

3.7

$1,702.00

Daniel Tai (“DT”)

$350

n/a

n/a

6.0

$2,100.00

Vanessa Oliva (“VO”)

$335

n/a

n/a

19.1

$6,398.50

Vanessa Oliva (“VO”)

n/a

$355

n/a

22.8

$8,094.00

Matthew Pardo (“MP”)

$335

6.2

$2,077.00

Janis Gabbert (“JG”)

$595

7.9

$4,700.50

James Tarter (“JT”)

$435

3.0

$1,305.00

TOTAL (includes all work to date of filing of fee motion)

78.3

$31,507.50

TOTAL (includes fee motion work)

unknown

$35,007.50

Defendant argues Plaintiff’s fee claim is excessive because:

Plaintiff’s Counsel’s Hours & Rates

With exceptions noted below, the court finds that Plaintiff’s counsel’s hours expended and invoiced are reasonable and were reasonably incurred. While Plaintiff’s counsel’s work is no doubt of the cookie-cutter variety in a non-complex area of law, the hours otherwise expended appear commensurate with the time required to devote to investigation, pleadings, court appearances, and discovery leading up to the eventual 998 offer, its evaluation, and acceptance. Nor does the court detect evidence of padding, duplicative or overhead billing, or over-staffing. The hourly rates requested for Plaintiff’s counsel are reasonable based on the court’s familiarity with rates in the community for this type of relatively high-volume, cookie-cutter, non-complex work by attorneys having significant experience doing lemon law cases.

The court rejects Defendant’s arguments that there was inefficient billing involving case evaluation (opposition 5:10-17) and excessive billing on form documents (opposition 5:19-24).

Additionally, the court rejects Defendant’s argument that Plaintiff cannot collect fees for time incurred after the service of the 998 offer. Having obtained an extension, Plaintiff timely accepted the offer and Defendant did not proffer any evidence that Plaintiff ignored the offer or that any additional work after the offer was unnecessary, especially considering defendants pushed to go forward with Plaintiff’s deposition notwithstanding their pending 998.

However, some of the stated hours for work incurred was unnecessary, excessive or unreasonable. Billings for two court appearances are disallowed: 2/13/19 (3.6, $1,278; $36.56 costs) and 12/4/19 (3.0, $1305; $30.56 costs). The appearance on 2/13/19 involved an unopposed defense motion to compel Plaintiff’s deposition resulting in no monetary sanctions when moving party withdrew its request for $1,260 in sanctions against Plaintiff and her attorneys. To now allow the billed amount would be ironic and unjust in light of these events. The appearance on 12/4/19 was in response to the court’s OSC re entry of dismissal following the Plaintiff’s NOS. The delayed dismissal of this case requiring 3 hours billed for a simple court appearance (4.5 months after the NOS, 8 months after the 998 acceptance; 9.5 months after reserving a date for their fee motion) is unexplained and should have been avoided with a prompt filing of this motion. To allow this billing entry would reward a lemon law plaintiff’s delay in filing the fee motion, for which the firm reserved a date even before the 998 was served (see 2/27/19 cost entry). Finally, the court finds only 5 hours are reasonable to prepare the fee motion itself, instead of the claimed 12.0 hours (JC 3.3 hours and GY 8.3 hours). The court awards 5 hours at the average rate between JC and GY, which is $505 per hour. Additionally, the court finds only 3.5 hours at that same rate reasonable to review the opposition, prepare the reply, and attend the hearing. The court: (1) does not award fees for entries for JC’s 3.3 hours at $550 hourly rate preparing the motion ($4,565.00) and GY’s 3.3 hours at $435.00 hourly rate preparing the motion ($1,435.50); (2) awards 5.0 hours at $505 hourly rate for work preparing the motion for a total of $2,525.00; and (3) awards 3.5 hours at $505 hourly rate for work after the motion was filed for a total of $1,767.50.

Given the above reductions, the total lodestar amount is $25,911.50.

Multiplier

Given the work done in this case and the results obtained in this non-complex volume-driven lemon law specialty, the court need not make any other adjustments up or down—no multiplier is awarded. Any contingency risk factor appears already accounted for in counsel’s hourly rates. Without earlier settlement demands that might have proven fruitful, any increase attributable to the delay is not sufficient reason for a multiplier based on all circumstances in this case.

Plaintiff is entitled to recover a total lodestar fee of $25,911.50.

B. Costs

Plaintiff also seeks $2,590.16 in costs and expenses. Defendant does not specifically oppose this request, other than requesting the court to refuse any costs. The cost request is reasonable and granted with the exception of $9.77 for food on 3/14/19 and the costs associated with the two court appearances discussed earlier. The court awards $2,513.29 in costs.

Unless waived, notice of ruling by moving party.