No Abuse of Discretion Found, Even though Award Was Substantial in Amount.
To the victor goes the spoils, says the old adage. Well, that certainly held true in the next case, all the reason that we say that a fee award, one way or the other, can make or break any litigant--and also inspired why we blogged in this substantive area of the law.
Plaintiff, an HIV positive homosexual man working at Costco’s, won a civil rights case. No wonder; some testimony indicated that a Costco manager said “[t]here’s nothing in Texas but steers and queers.” Plaintiff won a damages award of $422,359 for FEHA retaliation, plus another $ 471,240 in attorney’s fees and $39,578 in costs. Defendant Costco appealed both the merits and fee award. It lost both challenges.
In Valera v. Costco Wholesale Corp., Case No. B215631 (2d Dist., Div. 2 Nov. 4, 2010) (unpublished), the fee award was affirmed, keeping in mind that the trial court did deny plaintiff’s request for a 2.5 multiplier (even though the full lodestar was awarded).
The main challenge was that the trial court did not apportion plaintiff’s fees among successful and unsuccessful claims. The problem with this argument was that all of the claims were based on the same set of factual circumstances, so no apportionment was necessary.
With respect to the contention that the trial court had to give a further explanation for its award, the appellate panel concluded that the lower court did independently assess the evidence such that no more detail was required.