Abuse of Discretion Standard Did Not Prevent Reversal When Record Showed Errors, According to Sixth District.
In an interesting contrast to the way the abuse of discretion standard was deferentially applied in our contemporaneous post in Murrell v. Rolling Hills Community Association, the Sixth District found that the trial court abused its discretion in numerous ways in the amount of fees awarded in a financial elder abuse case (even though the issue of fee entitlement was not disputed).
Defendant in Bell v. Bunch, Case No. H032980 (6th Dist. Jan. 31, 2011) (unpublished) was found to have committed financial elder abuse against plaintiff. Welfare and Institutions Code section 15657.5(a) has a fee shifting statute. In a postjudgment order which was separately appealed (something we have argued should be done in all cases), the trial court awarded plaintiff statutory fees and costs of $290,684.93 inclusive of a 1.2 multiplier on everything but “fees on fees” plus $5,824 in expert witness and investigation fees. Defendant appealed, challenging entitlement on some of the costs and the amount of fees awarded. (Plaintiff had sought a lodestar of $256,138.75, plus $5,824.43 in expert witness/investigation fees, or a total lodestar of $261,963.18 plus addition of a 1.5 multiplier for a total request of $392,944.77.) Defendant Bunch’s appeal was a good move.
Elderly man clasping cane. c1900. H.L. Bundy, photographer. Library of Congress.