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This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 08/15/2019 at 09:01:31 (UTC).

WESTERN FUNDING INC VS VEGAS VALLEY MOTORS CORP ET AL

Case Summary

On 03/30/2017 WESTERN FUNDING INC filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against VEGAS VALLEY MOTORS CORP. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is ELIZABETH R. FEFFER. The case status is Not Classified By Court.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****5813

  • Filing Date:

    03/30/2017

  • Case Status:

    Not Classified By Court

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Other Contract

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

ELIZABETH R. FEFFER

 

Party Details

Plaintiff, Respondent, Cross Defendant and Not Classified By Court

WESTERN FUNDING INCORPORATED

Defendants, Respondents, Cross Plaintiffs, Appellants and Not Classified By Court

VEGAS VALLEY MOTORS CORPORATION

COX DONALD GRAYSON

COX III DONALD GRAYSON

DOES 1 TO 10

SENTER GUERIN BONPARTE

WESTERN FUNDING INCORPORATED

Others

SCOW STEVEN B. ESQ

KOCH DAVID R.

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Cross Defendant Attorneys

YADEGARI ARUSH

SIFERS JAMES S.

SIFERS JAMES STEVEN

YADEGARI ARASH E.

Defendant, Appellant and Respondent Attorney

KELLER CHRISTOPHER MARTIN

Defendant, Cross Plaintiff and Respondent Attorneys

SINGER DANIEL I. ESQ.

SINGER DANIEL ISRAEL

KOCH DAVID RICHARD

SCOW STEVEN BRADLEY

KELLER CHRISTOPHER MARTIN

Defendant and Cross Plaintiff Attorney

SINGER DANIEL I. ESQ.

Other Attorneys

WESTERN FUNDING INCORPORATED

 

Court Documents

Notice

3/14/2019: Notice

Judgment

2/28/2019: Judgment

Appeal - Notice of Filing of Notice of Appeal

2/8/2019: Appeal - Notice of Filing of Notice of Appeal

PLAINTIFF/CROSS-DEFENDANT WESTERN FUNDING INCORPORATED'S CALIFORNIA RULES OF COURT RULE 3.13 45 SEPARATE STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF ITS MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO PL4INTIFF/CROSS-DEFENDANT WES

4/24/2018: PLAINTIFF/CROSS-DEFENDANT WESTERN FUNDING INCORPORATED'S CALIFORNIA RULES OF COURT RULE 3.13 45 SEPARATE STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF ITS MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO PL4INTIFF/CROSS-DEFENDANT WES

Motion for New Trial

11/21/2018: Motion for New Trial

Request for Judicial Notice

12/10/2018: Request for Judicial Notice

Memorandum of Points & Authorities

11/30/2018: Memorandum of Points & Authorities

Notice of Entry of Judgment

11/13/2018: Notice of Entry of Judgment

Minute Order

11/6/2018: Minute Order

Minute Order

8/1/2018: Minute Order

NOTICE OF ASSOCIATION OF ATTORNEY

7/27/2018: NOTICE OF ASSOCIATION OF ATTORNEY

JOINT LIST OF STIPULATED FACTS

7/30/2018: JOINT LIST OF STIPULATED FACTS

AMENDMENT TO COMPLAINT

7/30/2018: AMENDMENT TO COMPLAINT

NOTICE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF RECEIPT?CIVIL

7/31/2018: NOTICE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF RECEIPT?CIVIL

SUMMONS

3/30/2017: SUMMONS

ANSWER - CONTRACT

5/26/2017: ANSWER - CONTRACT

Summons on Cross Complaint

5/26/2017: Summons on Cross Complaint

NOTICE OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF RECEIPT - CIVIL

6/21/2017: NOTICE OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF RECEIPT - CIVIL

89 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 06/14/2019
  • DocketAppeal Record Delivered; Filed by Clerk

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  • 05/10/2019
  • DocketAppeal - Notice of Fees Due for Clerk's Transcript on Appeal (2/1/19 B295538); Filed by Clerk

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  • 05/08/2019
  • DocketAppeal - Remittitur - Appeal Dismissed (B295538); Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/02/2019
  • DocketAppeal - Agreed Statement Filed; Filed by Vegas Valley Motors Corporation (Defendant); Donald Grayson Cox (Legacy Party)

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  • 03/29/2019
  • DocketMemorandum of Costs (Summary); Filed by Western Funding Incorporated (Plaintiff)

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  • 03/14/2019
  • DocketNotice (of Entry of Amended Judgment); Filed by Western Funding Incorporated (Plaintiff)

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  • 03/07/2019
  • DocketAppellate Order Dismissing Appeal (Order dismissing appeal filed 2/6/19.); Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/28/2019
  • DocketAmended Judgment

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  • 02/20/2019
  • DocketNotice ( of Entry of Order); Filed by Western Funding Incorporated (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/13/2019
  • Docketat 09:00 AM in Department 39; Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees - Held - Motion Granted

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152 More Docket Entries
  • 04/12/2017
  • DocketFirst Amended Complaint; Filed by Western Funding Incorporated (Plaintiff)

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  • 04/12/2017
  • DocketFIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT - CONTRACT

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  • 04/04/2017
  • DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

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  • 04/04/2017
  • DocketORDER TO SHOW CAUSE HEARING

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  • 04/04/2017
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/04/2017
  • DocketOSC-Failure to File Proof of Serv; Filed by Clerk

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  • 03/30/2017
  • DocketSummons; Filed by Plaintiff/Petitioner

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  • 03/30/2017
  • DocketSUMMONS

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  • 03/30/2017
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by null

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  • 03/30/2017
  • DocketCOMPLAINT-CONTRACT

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC655813    Hearing Date: December 03, 2020    Dept: 39

[TENTATIVE] RULING:

This matter came on regularly for trial from August 1 to August 3, 2018. The court issued its statement of decision on November 6, 2018, finding in Plaintiff/Cross-Defendant WFI’s favor on the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) and the Cross-Complaint, and granted judgment in Plaintiff’s favor and against Defendants in the amount of $1,736,761.13. Plaintiff filed a Notice of Entry of Judgment on November 13, 2018, and served the notice by mail on November 9, 2018. Defendants appealed the judgment arguing the trial court erred in that it (1) wrongly interpreted the contracts between the parties, (2) found personal liability on the part of Defendants Cox. Jr. and Cox III, and (3) lacked substantial evidence to support the award of judgment. The Court of Appeal issued a Remittitur on July 15, 2020, affirming the judgment of the trial court and stating Defendants are to bear the cost of the appeal. Remittitur 21.

Plaintiff now moves for attorney’s fees in the amount of $277,005.00. Plaintiff additionally has filed a memorandum of costs, seeking costs in the amount of $2,131.92 separate from the requested attorney’s fees. Defendants have not filed an opposition to the subject motion or a motion to tax costs.

The court has reviewed the submitted papers and finds that the attested billing rates are reasonable for attorneys of the attested experience and positions. The submitted evidence demonstrates Plaintiff’s counsel, Madison Law, APC, and its in-house counsel rendered $268,560.00 and $6,075.00, respectively, in legal services on the appeal. Pl. Mot. Ex. 4; Alexandryan Decl. ¶ 5. The services performed and hours claimed are reasonable. Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to $274,635.00 for legal fees incurred in connection with the appeal.

Plaintiff additionally requests 4 hours of fees its counsel anticipates incurring in preparing a reply to Defendants’ opposition to the motion and 2 hours of fees to attend the hearing on the motion, for total additional fees of $2,370.00. Firouznam-Heidari Decl. ¶ 17. Because Defendants did not file an opposition, the court will not award fees in connection with a reply and will only award additional fees of $790 for the hearing on the subject motion.

In sum, the court GRANTS the motion and AWARDS Plaintiff attorney’s fees of $275,425 in connection with the appeal. Defendants did not file a motion to tax costs. The court, therefore, AWARDS Plaintiff costs in the amount of $2,131.92.

Plaintiff is instructed to give notice.

Background

This case arises from allegations that Defendants Vegas Valley Motors Corp. (“VVM”), Donald Grayson Cox. Jr. (“Cox Jr.”), and Donald Grayson Cox III (“Cox III”) breached the terms of a purchase agreement with Plaintiff Western Funding Incorporated (“WFI”). In the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), Plaintiff alleged two causes of action for breach of contract against Defendants. Defendants filed a Cross-Complaint on May 26, 2017, alleging two causes of action for breach of contract against Plaintiff.

This matter came on regularly for bench trial from August 1 to August 3, 2018. The court issued its statement of decision on November 6, 2018, finding in Plaintiff/Cross-Defendant WFI’s favor on the FAC and the Cross-Complaint, and granted judgment in Plaintiff’s favor and against Defendants in the amount of $1,736,761.13. Plaintiff filed a Notice of Entry of Judgment on November 13, 2018, and served the notice by mail on November 9, 2018.

Defendants appealed the judgment arguing that this court erred in that it (1) wrongly interpreted the contracts between the parties, (2) found personal liability on the part of Defendants Cox. Jr. and Cox III, and (3) lacked substantial evidence to support the award of judgment. The Court of Appeal issued a Remittitur on July 15, 2020, affirming the judgment of this court. In the Remittitur, the Court of Appeal stated Defendants are to bear the cost of the appeal. Remittitur 21.

Plaintiff now moves for attorney’s fees in the amount of $277,005.00. Plaintiff has additionally filed a memorandum of costs, seeking costs in the amount of $2,131.92 separate from the requested attorney’s fees. Defendants have not filed an opposition to the motion.

Discussion

I. Timeliness of Motion

“A notice of motion to claim attorney’s fees on appeal … must be served and filed within the time for serving and filing the memorandum of costs under [California Rules of Court,] rule 8.278(c)(1) in an unlimited civil case ….” Cal. R. Ct. 3.1702(c)(1). A party claiming costs on appeal must serve and file a written memorandum of costs in the superior court within 40 days after issuance of the remittitur. Cal. R. Ct. 8.278(c)(1).

The Court of Appeal issued the Remittitur on July 15, 2020. Plaintiff’s deadline to file a motion for attorney’s fees and a memorandum of costs, thus, fell on August 24, 2020. Plaintiff filed the subject motion and its memorandum of costs on August 24, 2020, and the motion is timely.

II. Plaintiff’s Entitlement to Attorney’s Fees

California follows the “American rule,” pursuant to which litigants ordinarily pay their own attorney’s fees. Musaelian v. Adams, 45 Cal. 4th 512, 516 (2009). Thus, a request for attorney’s fees must be based on either a statutory or contractual provision authorizing their recovery. See Code Civ. Proc. § 1021.

Civil Code section 1717(a) provides in relevant part:

In any action on a contract, where the contract specifically provides that attorney's fees and costs, which are incurred to enforce that contract, shall be awarded either to one of the parties or to the prevailing party, then the party who is determined to be the party prevailing on the contract, whether he or she is the party specified in the contract or not, shall be entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees in addition to other costs.

Civ. Code § 1717(a). “[T]he party prevailing on the contract shall be the party who recovered a greater relief in the action on the contract.” Civ. Code § 1717(b). Attorney’s fees are awarded based “upon the terms of the contractual attorney fee provision” pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1021. Santisas v. Goodin, 17 Cal. 4th 599, 602 (1998).

Plaintiff requests an award of attorney’s fees under the provisions of the purchase agreement (the “PA”) and the addendum to the PA (the “Addendum”). Mot. 8. Plaintiff has not attached a copy of these agreements to the subject motion; however, the court previously found these agreements entitle the prevailing party to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and previously awarded fees in Plaintiff’s favor. 2/13/2019 Minute Order. As Plaintiff prevailed on the appeal, the court finds Plaintiff is entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees under the parties’ agreements.

III. Reasonableness of Requested Fees

Plaintiff requests attorney’s fees of $277,005.00 against Defendants.

A. Legal Standard

“A trial court assessing attorney’s 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 Inst. v. Alnor, 165 Cal. App. 4th 1315, 1321 (2008). “The basis for the trial court’s calculation must be the actual hours counsel has devoted to the case, less those that result from inefficient or duplicative use of time.” Horsford v. Bd. of Trs. of Cal. State Univ., 132 Cal. App. 4th 359, 395 (2005). “The reasonableness of attorney’s 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, 99 Cal. App. 4th 443, 448 (2002). “The law is clear, however, that an award of attorney’s fees may be based on counsel’s declarations, without production of detailed time records. Raining Data Corp. v. Barrenechea, 175 Cal. App. 4th 1363, 1375 (2009).

An attorney acting in propria person cannot recover attorney’s fees under Civil Code section 1717. PLCM Group v. Drexler, 22 Cal. 4th 1084, 1092 (2000). “[B]y definition, the term ‘attorney’s fees’ implies the existence of an attorney-client relationship, i.e., a party receiving professional services from a lawyer.” Id. Nevertheless, an organization that is always represented by counsel, whether in-house or pro bono, may recover a reasonable award of attorney’s fees for the legal services performed by its counsel, based on a lodestar figure calculated at the prevailing hourly rate in the community for comparable legal services. Id. at 1094-98.

B. Reasonableness of Hourly Billing Rates

Plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees is supported by the declarations of Jenos Firouznam-Heidari (“Firouznam”), James S. Sifers (“Sifers”), and Edit Alexandryan (“Alexandryan”). Firouznam and Sifers are attorneys at Madison Law, APC (“Madison Law”), and they attest to their experience and hourly rates of $395. Firouznam Decl. ¶ 12; Siefers Decl. ¶ 2. Firouznam additionally attests to hourly rates ranging from $275 to $325 for the attorneys who reported to him on this matter, as well as to the experience of these attorneys. Firouznam Decl. ¶ 13.

Alexandryan currently serves as Assistant General Counsel at Westlake Services, LLC (“Westlake”) and its various subsidiaries, including WFI, and attests to an hourly rate of $575 for himself and a rate of $525 for his colleague Lowell Sandell. Alexandryan Decl. ¶ 4.

Defendants did not file an opposition and do not object to these hourly rates.

The court has reviewed the submitted papers and finds that the attested billing rates are reasonable for attorneys of the attested experience and positions. Thus, the court will award attorney’s fees at the requested rates.

C. Hours Requested

Plaintiff contends it incurred attorney’s fees of $277,005.00 as a result of the appeal, and Plaintiff requests fees in this amount. Mot. 15. Alexandryan attests he and Sandell spent 6 and hours respectively on the appeal for a total of $6,075.00 in attorney’s fees. Alexandryan Decl. ¶ 5.

Plaintiff also submits copies of Madison Law’s billing records for this matter. These records reveal Madison Law incurred $268,560.00 in attorney’s fees on the appeal. Pl. Mot. Ex. 4 at 16. Firouznam additionally requests 4 hours for fees he anticipates incurring in preparing a reply to any opposition to the motion and 2 hours of fees to attend the hearing on the motion, for total additional fees of $2,370.00. Firouznam Decl. ¶ 17.

While this exceeds the $50,000.00 Plaintiff’s counsel agreed to charge WFI, Plaintiff argues the full amount should be awarded because Plaintiff’s counsel offered WFI a flat fee in a billing arrangement comparable to a contingency fee agreement, knowing the reasonable attorney’s fees incurred would well exceed that amount and risking that counsel would only recover $50,000 if Plaintiff were unsuccessful on appeal. Mot. 15.

Defendants did not file an objection and do not challenge any of the items listed in Plaintiff’s billing records or Plaintiff’s request for fees based on the actual services performed. As such, the court finds Plaintiff is entitled to recover reasonable fees reflecting the actual time Plaintiff’s counsel spent in connection with the appeal, in the total amount of $274,635.00.

The court has reviewed Plaintiff’s submitted billing records and declarations and finds that the services performed and time claimed are reasonable. Because Defendants did not file an opposition, however, the court will not award fees for the anticipated reply and will only award an additional $790 in fees related to the hearing on the subject motion. Plaintiff, therefore, is entitled to attorney’s fees at a lodestar of $275,425.00.

IV. Conclusion

In sum, the court AWARDS Plaintiff attorney’s fees in the amount of $275,425.00 in connection with the appeal.

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