Timothy L. McCandless, Esq. SBN 145577
Law Offices of Timothy L. McCandless
26875 Calle Hermosa Suite A,
Capistrano Beach, CA 92624
Telephone: (925) 957-9797
Attorneys for Defendants
Pierrick Briolette and Yong C. Briolette
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
COUNTY OF VENTURA
COASTLINE REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS, INC.
PIERRICK BRILLOUET, an individual;
YONG BRILLOUET, an individual; and DOE 1 through DOE 10, INCLUSIVE;
) Case No. 56-2014-00461981-CU-UD-VTA
DEFENDANTS’ OPPOSITION TO
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR
ATTORNEY’S FEES AND COSTS, MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND
DATE: January 6, 2016
TIME: 8:30 a.m.
Defendants Pierrick Brillouet and Yong C. Brillouet respectfully submit their Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs as follows:
MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES
INTRODUCTION AND HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Dates relevant to this matter are as follows:
On December 31, 2014, Plaintiff Coastline Real Estate Holdings, LLC filed the instant unlawful detainer action.
A two hour bench trial was conducted on September 8, 2015, and the court awarded possession to the Plaintiff.
Judgment was entered on October 7, 2015. The time to file an appeal was November 6, 2015, because the matter was filed as a limited action.
Additionally, the deadline to file the present Motion For Attorney’s was November 6, 2015, pursuant to California Rules of Court Rule 3.1702(b)(1). However the Motion was not filed until December 4, 2015. As such, the Motion was filed almost one month after the deadline and for that reason alone must be denied.
Plaintiff now seeks the award of $227,084.50 in attorney’s fees. The Declaration of Attorney Richman at Paragraph 19 specifically alleges that he expended 769.85 hours “in this matter.” However, when you review the charges, the hours were actually incurred for by other parties (Western Commercial Bank, Pacific Western Bank), in entirely different actions. The assertion of 769.85 hours by Plaintiff’s counsel related to this action is an intentional misrepresentation pursuant to California Rules of Professional Conduct 5-200(b).
Additionally, the identical charges were already disallowed in a prior motion in a different action, and therefore are barred by collateral estoppel.
Even worse, Defendant redacted in its Motion what attorney services were performed and the amount of time which was expended in completing those tasks. As a result, even if Plaintiff was entitled to recovery attorney’s fees for this case, based on the information served on Defendant, it is impossible to determine: (1) the nature of the service provided, (2) whether that service was necessary, (3) the amount of time which was expended to complete the service, and (4) is the amount of time and charge a reasonable fees for the “alleged” services. Given the foregoing, the Motion must be denied.
II. THE MOTION IS UNTIMELY FILED.
The unlawful detainer action was filed as a limited action, the Plaintiff paid the filing fee for a limited action, and the defendants likewise paid the filing fees for a limited action. The action was tried as a limited action.
Judgment was entered on October 7, 2015.
The deadline to file the present Motion For Attorney’s was thirty (30) days later, or November 6, 2015, pursuant to California Rules of Court Rule 3.1702(b)(1). Section 3.1702 provides in pertinent part:
(b) Attorney’s fees before trial court judgment
(1) Time for motion
“A notice of motion to claim attorney’s fees for services up to and including the rendition of judgment in the trial court-including attorney’s fees on an appeal before the rendition of judgment in the trial court-must be served and filed within the time for filing a notice of appeal under rules 8.104 and 8.108 in an unlimited civil case or under rules 8.822 and 8.823 in a limited civil case.”
The parties did not enter into a stipulation to extend the time for Plaintiff to file its Motion for Attorney’s Fees.
Plaintiff filed the instant Motion on December 4, 2015.
California Rules of Court Rule 8.822(1)(A) provides in pertinent part:
Rule 8.822. Time to appeal
(a) Normal time
(1) “Unless a statute or rule 8.823 provides otherwise, a notice of appeal must be filed on or before the earliest of:
(A) 30 days after the trial court clerk serves the party filing the notice of appeal a document entitled “Notice of Entry” of judgment or a file-stamped copy of the judgment, showing the date it was served;”
As such, the Motion was filed almost one month after the deadline and for that reason alone must be denied.
III. THE INSTANT MOTION IS NOT SUPPORTED IN CONTRACT OR
STATUTE AND MUST BE DENIED.
Plaintiff Coastline Real Estate Holdings, LLC purchased the position of Pacific Western Bank. Defendants believe that Plaintiff is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pacific Western Bank.
Pacific Western Bank (as successor in interest) became a Defendant in Superior Court of California, County of Ventura Case No. 56-2014-00458447-CU-OR-VTA stylized as:
Pierrick Brillouet and Yong Brillouet v. Western Commerical Bank, brought the identical motion for attorney’s fees. That motion was denied. The court adopted its Tentative Ruling which stated:
The Bank is only entitled to an award of attorney fees in this matter if a contractual provision exists which provides for such an award.
The Bank argues that the construction trust deed contains an attorney provision which provides it with a basis for attorney fees. However, the deed only permits an award of attorney fees by a court “[i]f Lender institutes any suit or action to enforce any of the terms of this Deed of Trust, Lender shall be entitled to recover such sum as the court may adjudge reasonable as attorneys’ fees at trial and upon any appeal.” (Emphasis added). Only actions which the “Lender institutes” are subject to the attorney’s fees provision and this action was not brought by the lender. The Bank has made no argument for the extension of the plain language of the provision which would encompass the current suit and as such it has not demonstrated it is entitled to fees under the construction trust deed.
The Bank claims that it is also entitled to attorney fees under the Promissory Note which provides:
Lender may hire or pay someone else to collect this note. Borrower will pay Lender that amount. This includes, subject to any limits under applicable law, Lender’s attorneys’ fee and Lender’s legal expenses, whether or not there is a lawsuit, including attorneys’ fees, expenses for bankruptcy proceedings (including efforts to modify or vacate any automatic stay or injunction), and appeals. Borrower will also pay any court costs, in addition to all other sums provided by law.
This was not a suit brought to collect the note. While “that amount” includes attorney fees and legal expenses, there is no indication that the court is authorized to make an award of these fees and expenses as a result of the current litigation. The Promissory Note does not indicate that the prevailing party in an action such as this is entitled to reasonable attorney fees.
The Bank also points to the assumption agreement as a basis for fees. It allegedly provides that “[i]f any lawsuit, arbitration or other proceedings is brought to interpret or enforce the terms of this Agreement, the prevailing party shall be entitled to recover the reasonable fees and costs of its attorneys in such proceeding.” This lawsuit didn’t involve the interpretation or enforcement of the terms of the assumption agreement. Santisas v. Goodin (1988) 17 Cal.4th 599 is of no help to the Bank as it involved an expansive attorney’s fee clause that clearly applied to the suit and the question was whether Civil Code §1717(b)(2) thwarted its application. That is not the case here.” A true and correct copy of the Tentative Ruling is attached hereto as Exhibit “1” and is incorporated by this reference.
Notwithstanding the court’s prior Order denying the very same attorney’s fees, Plaintiff in the instant action once again argues the identical points and seeks fees which are unsupported, unreasonable, and which are untimely. As such, the Motion for Attorney’s fees must be denied.
IV. MOVANTS HAVE THE BURDEN OF PROVING THE REASONABLE
NATURE OF THE SERVICES ALLEGED.
The Declaration of Attorney Steven N. Richman contains an attachment which purports to be a listing of the attorney services which were provided. However, a summary inspection shows that the listing of services, the time incurred for such service and the amount charged for such services have been redacted.
As such, Plaintiffs cannot determine the propriety of: (1) the nature of the services provided, (2) whether those services were necessary, (3) the amount of time which was expended to complete the services, and (4) whether the amount of time and charge is a reasonable fee for the particular service rendered.
Attorney fee shifting statutes and contractual provisions usually provide only the right to recover “reasonable attorneys’ fees” incurred as a result of the litigation. In order to determine the reasonableness of the fee award requested, courts generally start with the “lodestar amount,” which is the reasonable number of hours spent on the litigation multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate. Serrano v. Priest, 20 Cal.3d 25, 48 (1977); Thayer v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 92 Cal.App.4th 819 (2001).
Once this amount is determined, the court can take into consideration additional factors to adjust the “lodestar” either up or down as appropriate. Such factors include: the novelty or difficulty of the issues involved in the case and the skill required to present those issues; the extent to which the nature of the case precluded the employment of other attorneys; and the fee arrangement of the attorney and the client. Serrano, 20 Cal.3d at 48; Thayer, 92 Cal. App.4th at 833. The party seeking the fees has the burden of proof to establish that the time spent and the hourly fee charged is reasonable. Levy v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., 4 Cal.App.4th 807 (1992).
This particular case was an unlawful detainer action, the trial lasted two hours, the trial presented no novel issues, nor did it require herculean efforts. The case was disposed by bench trial within two hours. As such, although Defendants believe that no right to attorney’s fees exists in this matter, if the court is going to award attorney’s fees, then Movant has failed to prove the reasonableness of the fees requested. Given the foregoing the Motion should be denied.
Dated: December 22, 2015 LAW OFFICES OF
TIMOTHY L. MCCANDLESS
Timothy L. McCandless, Esq.
Attorney for Defendants
Pierrick Brillouet and Yong C. Brillouet