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Love v. Garcia

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 7, 2017


          Present: The Honorable CHRISTINA A. SNYDER


         Proceedings: (IN CHAMBERS) - PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES (Filed May 19, 2017, Dkt. 62)


         On September 29, 2015, plaintiff Samuel Love filed a complaint against Jesus Garcia, Faviola I. Garcia, and Does 1-10 (collectively "defendants") asserting claims for violations of (1) the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 etseq. and (2) California's Unruh Civil Rights Act ("Unruh Act"), pursuant to California Civil Code §§ 51 et seq. Dkt. 1 ("Compl."). The gravamen of plaintiff s complaint was that he visited defendants' store twice, once in November 2013 and once in September 2015, and that each time he was either deterred or unable to visit defendants' business because of accessibility barriers he encountered in the parking lot. The alleged ADA violation was different during each visit. Plaintiff alleged that, in November 2013, the parking lot was devoid of any markings or parking space lines and that, during his November 2013 visit, he drove away because he could not find a marked, dedicated place for disabled patrons to park. Plaintiff further alleged that, in September 2015, there was a marked parking space at defendants' business for someone who was disabled, but it was sloped too steeply for use with a wheelchair and caused his wheelchair to roll away while he exited his vehicle.

         On September 26, 2016, the Court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to plaintiffs ADA claim because defendants presented undisputed evidence demonstrating that, no later than December 19, 2015, their parking facilities were in compliance with the ADA. Dkt. 34. The Court decided to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs remaining Unruh Act claim. Id. at 6.

         On January 13, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to his Unruh Act claim. Dkt. 37-1. On February 7, 2017, the Court denied plaintiffs motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 41 On April 4, 2017, the case proceeded to a bench trial. At the outset of trial, plaintiff elected not to pursue his claim based upon his alleged September 2015 visit to defendants' business. Instead plaintiff sought to prove only that in November 2013, defendants' business was not ADA-compliant because it lacked any marked parking space for disabled patrons. Plaintiff was the only witness who testified in support of plaintiffs case. One of the defendants, J. Garcia, testified for the defense, as did a certified access specialist, Jason James.[1]

         On May 5, 2017, the Court issued its findings of fact and conclusions of law. Dkt. 61. The Court found that plaintiff had faced disability discrimination in violation of the Unruh Act in November 2013 because of defendants' unmarked parking lot. Id. The Court found defendants liable to plaintiff for $4, 000 in statutory damages plus reasonable attorneys' fees. The Court ordered that:

No later than May 19, 2017, plaintiff shall file a brief regarding plaintiffs attorneys' fees. Said brief (or accompanying declaration) shall set forth, at a minimum, the number of hours reasonably expended by counsel, a general description of how those hours were expended and by whom, and counsel's associated hourly fees and qualifications. Defendants shall file any opposition or challenge to the amount of fees requested by plaintiff no later than June 2, 2017. Thereafter the matter will stand submitted.

Id. (italics added).

         On May 19, 2017, plaintiff filed the instant motion for attorneys' fees. Dkt. 62. Plaintiffs motion was noticed, in error, for a hearing on July 10, 2017, at 10:00 a.m.. On June 2, 2017, defendants filed an opposition. Dkt. 64 ("Opp'n"). On June 26, 2017, plaintiff filed a reply. Dkt. 65.[2]

         Having carefully considered the parties' arguments, the Court finds and concludes as follows.


         Plaintiff requests $46, 698.54 in attorneys' fees and costs. The Unruh Act provides that reasonable attorneys' fees be awarded to a prevailing plaintiff. Cal. Civ. Code § 52(a). Here, plaintiff obtained an enforceable judgment for damages resulting from his Unruh Act claim. Accordingly, plaintiff is a prevailing party and entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees despite having failed to prove all of his claims. See Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 112 (1992) ("a plaintiff who wins nominal damages is a prevailing party"); Martinez v. Longs Drugs Store, Inc., 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30226 (E.D. Cal. 2005) (plaintiff is prevailing party despite grant of summary judgment to defendant regarding most alleged regulatory violations).[3] Thus, the only dispute presented by the instant motion is whether the fees plaintiff has requested are reasonable. Both the California Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit apply the "lodestar" method for calculating reasonable attorneys' fees, designed to determine the "basic fee for comparable legal services in the community." Ketchum v. Moss. 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1132 (2001); see Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin., Inc., 523 F.3d 973, 978 (9th Cir.2008). The "'lodestar' is calculated by multiplying the number of hours the prevailing party reasonably expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate." Camacho, 523 F.3d at 978 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         The party seeking attorneys' fees must submit evidence supporting the number of hours worked, and the district court should exclude "hours that are not reasonably expended because they are 'excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.'" Van Gerwen v. Guarantee Mut. Life Co., 214 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir.2000) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983)). "The lodestar figure may then be adjusted, based on consideration of factors specific to the case, in order to fix the fee at the fair market value for the legal services provided." PLCM Grp. v. Drexler. 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095 (2000), as modified (June 2, 2000) (quotation marks and citations omitted). What constitutes reasonable attorneys' fees is committed to the Court's discretion. Id. at 1096. Relevant considerations ...

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