Plaintiff Requested $212,287.50 (Inclusive Of A 1.5 Multiplier), But Lower Court’s Award Of A Reasonable Lodestar Was No Abuse of Discretion.
Plaintiff employee eventually obtained recovery of $43,654.50 in an unpaid commission dispute even though he at one point was willing to accept $75,000 to settle which included a $30,000 component to reimburse his attorney for fees under a contingency agreement. Plaintiff then sought recovery of $212,287.50 in fees under Labor Code section 218.5’s fee-shifting provision (with the request including a 1.5 positive multiplier). The defense suggested $30,000 was a reasonable award, but the trial judge awarded plaintiff $58,341.50 as a reasonable fee lodestar, denying the request for any multiplier.
Plaintiff’s appeal that the fee award was too small did not prevail in Philpott v. Midwest Roofing Co., Inc., Case No. B262185 (2d Dist., Div. 5 Jan. 15, 2015) (unpublished).
The trial court cut the amount of lodestar hours and the hourly rate, with some explanations for his order at the fee hearing. One of the problems was the lack of a reporter’s transcript so the reviewing court could see what occurred at the fee hearing—a problem we have chronicled in other posts. However, given that the trial court found the matter was not complex and that plaintiff had been willing to accept $30,000 in fees before the first day of trial (which was not that long), the trial judge was within the range of acceptability by nearly doubling the settlement request as a check on the fees he actually awarded. The refusal to award the multiplier was no abuse of discretion either, in light of the relative non-complexity of the case (with only the contingency risk factor supporting a multiplier, while no other multiplier-justifying factors were in play).