After All, Trial Court Did Cut Down $1.13 Million Lodestar Request and Multiplier Enhancement Request.
Civil Code section 51.7 provides that Californians have a right to be free from any violence or intimidation by threat of violence committed against their persons because of specific characteristics, including sexual harassment. Under Civil Code section 52(b)(2), any person who denies the right provided by section 51.7 is liable for attorney’s fees.
Plaintiff in Ventura v. ABM Industries Incorporated, Case No. B231817 (2d Dist., Div. 5 Dec. 20, 2012) (published) won a compensatory damages verdict of $125,000 (which included a $25,000 penalty), and then moved for attorney’s fees based on a $1.13 million lodestar but asking for an enhancement in the range of $1.697-1.979 million. The trial court awarded $550,000 in fees, expressly observing on the record that (1) rates, number of hours claimed, and billings were excessive, (2) there was duplication of work, (3) some of the claims were disposed of by summary adjudication or abandoned at trial, and (4) hours spent on other unsuccessful claims should be eliminated.
Believe it or not, defendant appealed both the merits and fee determinations. The defense lost on both counts.
With respect to the fee award, the appellate court majority (there was a concurring and dissenting opinion by Justice Mosk) found that the trial court did not have to issue a statement of decision in the fee proceedings, Gorman v. Tassajara Development Corp., 178 Cal.App.4th 44, 65 (2009), but did explain its ruling in detail anyway so that review was not a problem. Given the various adjustments by the trial court lowering the requested amounts, no abuse of discretion was shown in the fees actually awarded. (PLCM Group v. Drexler, 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095 (2000).)
BLOG UNDERVIEW--Justice Mosk dissented on the basis that he did not believe that section 51.7 remedies were applicable to the facts of the case.