Trial Court Did Reduce Hourly Rate And Only Awarded Fees For Trial Attorney Work.
In Yoo v. Song, Case No. B256229 (2d Dist., Div. 7 Feb. 17, 2015) (unpublished), an ex-employee of defendants sued for unpaid overtime, statutory penalties under Labor Code sections 203 and 226, pay for meal/rest periods under Labor Code section 226.7, and unfair business practices. After a bench trial, a lower court awarded plaintiff statutory penalties of $4,000 under Labor Code section 226(a) as well as interest, costs, and attorney’s fees. Later, upon motion for fees by plaintiff to fix the amount of fees, plaintiff was awarded $41,500 in fees.
The defense appeal was unsuccessful because they could not surmount the deferential abuse of discretion standard.
The defense lost any merits review of the underlying judgment, because the later fee award did not extend the time for appealing the underlying judgment because the fee award was separately appealable—with the defense tardily appealing the merits judgment. (Torres v. City of San Diego, 154 Cal.App.4th 214, 222 (2007).)
However, because the fee award appeal was timely, the panel confronted whether the amount of the award was an abuse of discretion. No, the appellate court said; after all, the lower court reduced the requested hourly rate of $575 down to $400 per hour and only allowed compensation for one of two lawyers on the case, i.e., the actual trial attorney (even using the work billed by the uncompensated attorney at the amended hourly rate). The defense argued that Harrington v. Payroll Entertainment Services, Inc., 160 Cal.App.4th 589, 594 (2008) [only $500 in fees awarded where a plaintiff obtained a $44 small claims judgment] should be followed, but the 2/7 DCA concluded the lower court was not bound by the outcome in that case.