Car Purchaser Requested Fees Of $80,927.25, But Fee Request Reduced For Work Vindicating Car Purchaser’s Personal Interests.
We found Flores v. Southcoast Automotive Liquidators, Inc., Case No. B268271 (2d Dist., Div. 5 Nov. 27, 2017) (partially published; fee discussion not published) to be interesting given how the trial judge fashioned a positive fee award to a car purchaser plaintiff under the private attorney general statute after reducing the requested fees by a ratio which reflected work spent on claims vindicating only car purchaser’s personal interests.
The facts here were not particularly attractive for the car dealer, ultimately leading the trial judge to award about $38,500 in compensatory damages/penalties to car purchaser, rescind the car purchase, and entering a limited permanent injunction against car dealer as to certain advertising practices. The car purchaser then moved for attorney’s fees of $80,927.25 but the trial judge only awarded 30% for a fee award to car purchaser of $24,278.18—finding that 70% of the fees incurred were for car purchaser’s private benefit and 30% were for the public benefit. $3,922.50 in routine costs were also awarded.
The fee and costs awards were affirmed on appeal. The appellate court determined that car purchaser’s action resulted in enforcement of an important right to be free of false/misleading advertisement, but sustained the trial court’s limitation of the fee award as it did based on the private/public benefit ratio analysis.
BLOG OBSERVATION—This case demonstrates how settlement should not be bypassed in certain situations. After the complaint was filed, car dealer’s counsel offered to rescind the car purchase and pay for $1,500 in incidental costs (although the costs figure was negotiable if receipts could be provided to support more costs). Car purchaser’s counsel countered that the car purchaser required an additional $15,000 for civil penalties and attorney’s fees, which resulted in an impasse. As we read the decision, car dealer did much worse by going to trial rather than accepting purchaser’s settlement counter.