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Mitchell v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 1, 2014

ROBERT J. MITCHELL, an individual; CHRISTINE MITCHELL, an individual, Plaintiffs,
v.
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT WELLS FARGO'S MOTION FOR THE AWARD OF ATTORNEYS' FEES (Dkt. No. 48)

KANDIS A. WESTMORE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiffs Robert J. Mitchell and Christine Mitchell filed this lawsuit against Wells Fargo Bank asserting a single cause of action alleging that Wells Fargo violated the Homeowner Bill of Rights (hereafter referred to as "HBOR"). (Compl., Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A.) Ultimately, the court granted Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss in full and without leave to amend. (Dkt. No. 46.)

On February 4, 2014, Wells Fargo filed a motion for attorneys' fees based on the fee-shifting provisions in Plaintiffs' note and deed of trust. (Def.'s Mot. for Att'ys' Fees, "Def.'s Mot., " Dkt. No. 48.)

Upon review of the moving papers, the Court finds this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), and GRANTS Well Fargo's Motion to for Attorneys' Fees in the amount of $9, 920.00.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs were members of a class action against Wells Fargo which resulted in a settlement agreement that obligated the bank to make a loan modification program available to qualified borrowers. See In re Wachovia Corporation "Pick-A-Payment" Mortgage Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, No. 5:09-md-02015-JF, 2011 WL 1877630, at *2 (N.D. Cal. May 17, 2011).

On or around July 6, 2007, Plaintiffs obtained a $1, 309, 000 home loan from Wells Fargo's predecessor, World Savings Bank, FSB. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1., Ex. A at 2.) In December 2011, Plaintiffs stopped making timely mortgage payments. (Compl. ¶ 6.) In January 2013, Plaintiffs submitted a loan modification application through Wells Fargo's defense counsel, Stacie Knight of Winston & Strawn, LLP. (Compl. ¶ 8.) On May 18, 2013, Wells Fargo sent Plaintiffs a letter denying their loan modification application on the grounds that it would result in a negative Net Present Value ("NPV"). (Compl. ¶ 9, Ex. C.) The letter included Plaintiffs' gross monthly income and the market value of the property used in the NPV calculation, as well as instructions on how to initiate the appeals process. Id.

On May 20, 2013, Plaintiffs' counsel sent an email to Stacie Knight requesting "a copy of the NPV" and explaining that Plaintiffs "would like to file an appeal." (Compl. ¶ 10, Ex. D.) That same day, Ms. Knight responded to Plaintiffs' counsel, explaining that "the NPV calculations are proprietary" and added, "[t]o appeal, please submit a new appraisal from a licensed appraiser within 30 days of the date of the denial letter." Id.

On August 1, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in Contra Costa County Superior Court alleging that Wells Fargo violated HBOR by failing to provide Plaintiffs with "all of the inputs used in the present value calculation." (Compl. ¶ 12.)

On September 16, 2013, Wells Fargo filed a motion to dismiss. On November 18, 2013, the Court requested further briefing on whether Wells Fargo was in compliance with the terms of the National Mortgage Settlement Agreement, and whether that compliance precludes liability for the alleged HBOR violations pursuant to California Civil Code § 2924.12. On January 16, 2014, the Court held a hearing on the motion. Thereafter, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint without leave to amend. (Dkt. No. 46.)

On February 4, 2014, Wells Fargo filed a motion for attorneys' fees based on the fee-shifting provisions in Plaintiff's note and deed of trust. (Def.'s Mot. at 5-7, Dkt. No. 48.) Wells Fargo sought $10, 002.50 in attorneys' fees related to its motion to dismiss. Plaintiff filed an opposition conceding that Wells Fargo was entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees as the prevailing party, but contested the fee amount on the grounds that Wells Fargo failed to specify which billing entries were related to the motion to dismiss. (Pl.'s Opp'n, Dkt. No. 5 at 1-2.)

On February 24, 2014, the Court issued an order requiring Wells Fargo to submit additional documentation in support of its motion for attorneys' fees. (Dkt. No. 52.) On February 25, 2014, Wells Fargo submitted a supplemental brief identifying the relevant billing entries, and also reduced its fee request to $9, 920.00. (Def.'s Supplemental Brief, "Def.'s Suppl., " Dkt. No. 53 at 3.) Plaintiffs did not file a response to Wells Fargo's supplemental brief, and, instead, informed the Court that they no longer contested the amount of the attorneys' fees request.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Motion for ...


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