Fourth District, Division 3 Finds No Abuse of Discretion.
In Raining Data Corp. v. Barrenechea, Case No. G040902 (4th Dist., Div. 3 June 26, 2009) (unpublished), plaintiff lost a SLAPP motion against a cross-defendant arising from a trade secret misappropriation dispute, with the trial court awarding $112, 353.75 to cross-defendant under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16(c) (a mandatory fee-shifting provision in favor of winning SLAPP defendants). Plaintiff appealed, claiming the fee award was unreasonable in amount and was riddled with overstaffing/duplicative efforts.
The Fourth District, Division 3, in a 3-0 opinion authored by Justice Fybel, disagreed based on the deferential abuse of discretion standard. (Christian Research Institute v. Alnor, 165 Cal.App.4th 1315, 1322 (2008).)
The unreasonableness argument was predicated on the contention that cross-defendant had failed to submit detailed billing statements in support of the fee request. This contention was rejected, because California allows fee awards to be based on counsel’s declarations sans production of detailed time records. (E.g., Bernardi v. County of Monterey, 167 Cal.App.4th 1379, 1398 (2008); Weber v. Langholz, 39 Cal.App.4th 1578, 1587 (1995).)
Although inefficient or duplicative efforts by counsel may not be compensable in the discretion of the trial court, plaintiff’s declarations did not explain how the two law firms overstaffed or were inefficient, especially when the defense declaration explained how different legal issues and tasks were allocated between the two different firms when preparing the SLAPP motion papers. (Tuchscher Development Enterprises, Inc. v. San Diego Unified Port Dist., 106 Cal.App.4th 1219, 1248 (2003) [generalized unreasonableness or duplicativeness assertions are insufficient to disturb trial court’s exercise of discretion].)
End result: the hefty fee award was affirmed.