$387,750 In Fees Requested, With Appellate Court Determining That Some Reasonable Amount Should Be Awarded.
Co-contributor Marc calls this next case “shock, countershock, equilibrium.” Co-contributor Mike agrees with his assessment of the result in Heller v. Carmel Partners, Inc., Case No. B253512 (2d Dist., Div. 2 Feb. 4, 2015) (unpublished).
Commodore W.H. Shock, U.S.N. Library of Congress.
In this one, plaintiff won a net judgment of $2,158.89 in a wage/hour case. Based on the one-way, mandatory fee shifting provision in Labor Code section 1194, plaintiff then sought to recover $387,750 in attorney’s fees and $50,180.58 in costs. The trial court, suffering a shocked conscience from the fee request, denied it altogether, but did award plaintiff $40,145.77 out of the requested costs.
This one got reversed upon plaintiff’s appeal.
The appellate court believed that section 1194 was a statutory mandate that could not be completely overridden by an inflated fee request, given that the statute always required the award of a “reasonable” fee. So, this one gets reversed and remanded to fix a “reasonable” fee for plaintiff.
We might also note that plaintiff dodged a big bullet—the one codified in Code of Civil Procedure section 1033. This provision allows a judge to discretionarily deny fees if the matter could have been brought as a limited jurisdiction case. Although the trial judge did observe that this matter was one that could have even been brought in small claims court, she did not base her ruling on this section—much to plaintiff’s relief.
However, given the break received on appeal, the reviewing court did not award attorney’s fees on appeal to plaintiff, directing that each side had to bear his/its own fees and costs.