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Vogel v. Dolanotto, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 5, 2018

MARTIN VOGEL, Plaintiff,
v.
DOLANOTTO, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES, COSTS, AND LITIGATION EXPENSES [50]

          OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Martin Vogel filed this action against Defendant Dolanotto, LLC, alleging violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) and various California statutes. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) On February 15, 2018, the Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff after granting in part and denying in part Plaintiff's unopposed motion for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 47, 49.) Plaintiff now moves for attorneys' fees, costs, and litigation expenses. (ECF No. 50.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's Motion.[1]

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a T-3 paraplegic. (Statement of Undisputed Facts (“SUF”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 36-8.) He is unable to walk or stand, and needs to use a wheelchair to travel in public. (Id.) Defendant is the landlord of a shopping center in Downey, California, which contains a Blizzberry storefront. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 14.) Plaintiff visited the Blizzberry shop and purchased fruit smoothies on March 3, 2016. (See Id. ¶ 2.) During his visit to the shopping center, four barriers, which the Court more fully described in its summary judgment Order, impeded Plaintiff's access. (Order 1-2, ECF No. 47.)

         Plaintiff sought summary judgment as to his first claim for violations of the ADA, his third claim for violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act (“UCRA”), and his fourth claim for violations of California Health and Safety Code. (See generally Mot. 4-10, ECF No. 50-1.) Defendant failed to oppose the Motion, and on February 13, 2018, the Court granted summary judgment as to Plaintiff's first claim for violations of the ADA, with the exception of the fourth alleged barrier, which the Court dismissed, as moot. (ECF No. 47.) The Court also granted summary judgment on Plaintiff's third claim for violations of the UCRA. (Id.) Finally, the Court denied summary judgment as to Plaintiff's fourth claim for violations of the California Health and Safety Code. (Id.) The Court also ordered Plaintiff to show cause why the Disabled Persons Act of California and Health and Safety Code claims should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Id.) In response, Plaintiff withdrew those two claims. (Not. of Withdrawal, ECF No. 48.)

         On February 15, 2018, the Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff for $4, 000, and ordered Defendant to remove the slopes/cross-slopes that exceed 2.08%, provide the requisite signage, and pay Plaintiff's reasonable costs and attorneys' fees. (ECF No. 49.) On March 1, 2018, Plaintiff moved for an award of attorneys' fees, costs, and litigation expenses, totaling $38, 022.20. (Mot. 7.) Defendant opposed the Motion.[2] (ECF No. 52.)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12205, a federal court may award reasonable attorneys' fees to the prevailing party in an action under the ADA. See K.M. ex rel. Bright v. Tustin Unified Sch. Dist., 78 F.Supp.3d 1289, 1297 (C.D. Cal. 2015). Additionally, any person found in violation of the UCRA “is liable for . . . any [attorneys'] fees that may be determined by the court.” Cal. Civ. Code § 52(a). Because the legislature passed the ADA in part “‘to ensure effective access to the judicial process' for persons with civil rights grievances, ” recovery of attorneys' fees “is the rule rather than the exception.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429 (1983) (citation omitted); Jankey v. Poop Deck, 537 F.3d 1122, 1131 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Documentation submitted in support of a motion for attorneys' fees must apprise the Court of the nature of the activity and should be sufficient to satisfy the Court that the hours expended were actual, non-duplicative, and reasonable. See K.M. ex rel. Bright, 78 F.Supp.3d at 1303.

         Reasonableness is generally determined using the “lodestar” method, where a court considers the work completed by the attorneys and multiplies “the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation by the reasonable hourly rate.” Intel Corp. v. Terabyte Int'l, Inc., 6 F.3d 614, 622 (9th Cir. 1993). The moving party bears the burden of producing evidence that the billing rates and hours worked are reasonable. Id. at 622-23.

         “Although in most cases, the lodestar figure is presumptively a reasonable fee award, the district court may, if circumstances warrant, adjust the lodestar to account for other factors which are not subsumed within it.” Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin., Inc., 523 F.3d 973, 978 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). In such cases, a district court may make upward or downward departures from the presumptively reasonable lodestar figure based on the following factors, as set forth in Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 69-70 (9th Cir. 1975), abrogated on other grounds by City of Bulington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557 (1992): (1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions presented; (3) the necessary skill required; (4) the preclusion of other employment by the attorney; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation and ability of the attorneys on the case; (10) the undesirability of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases. Courts “need not consider all twelve factors, but only those called into question by the case at hand and necessary to support the reasonableness of the fee award.” Kessler v. Assocs. Fin. Servs. Co. of Hawaii, 639 F.2d 498, 500 n.1 (9th Cir. 1981).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff seeks attorneys' fees of $35, 211.25, and litigation costs and expenses of $2, 810.95, totaling $38, 022.20. (Mot. 7.) The Court will address each in turn.

         A. Attorneys' Fees

         Plaintiff uses the lodestar method to calculate attorneys' fees and requests $35, 211.25. (Id.; Decl. of Scottlynn J Hubbard (“Hubbard Decl.”), Ex. 2, ECF No. 50-2.) Under the lodestar method, attorneys' fees are calculated by multiplying the reasonable hourly rate in the community at issue with the number of hours reasonably expended on litigation. United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge ...


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