Plaintiff Asked Jury For $322,551 In Damages; Chavez Found Controlling.
Inflated or excessive fee requests provide an opportunity for a trial judge to deny the request altogether or make substantial reductions. Unfortunately for a marginally winning plaintiff below, the former—the zilch/nada—option was seized by the trial judge and affirmed by the appellate court on review in connection with an attorney’s fees request.
In McFadden v. William Jordan Associates, Inc., Case No D070451 (4th Dist., Div. 1 Oct. 17, 2016) (unpublished), plaintiff brought multiple FEHA/labor claims against the defense, asking a jury to award $322,551 in compensatory damages. The jury clocked in with a $9,648 verdict in plaintiff’s favor. Plaintiff then moved to recover FEHA/labor statutory-shifting fees of $276,684. The lower court expressly found the request to be excessive, and awarded nothing in fees—finding that the case could have been brought as a limited civil case and finding its outright denial of fees was justified under Chavez v. City of Los Angeles, 47 Cal.4th 970 (2010) [one of our Leading Cases, #13].
The 4/1 DCA affirmed the fee denial. It found no basis to disturb the trial judge’s fee denial based on Chavez, especially given the express determination of excessive fees and given Chavez’s endorsement of the apposite Steele decision to the same effect.