United States District Court, C.D. California
Present: The Honorable CHRISTINA A. SNYDER Judge.
CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL
(IN CHAMBERS) - PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS'
FEES (Dkt. 124, filed March 23, 2018)
INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
April 10, 2015, plaintiff Salvador Navarro filed this
employment discrimination action in Los Angeles County
Superior Court against defendant DHL Forwarding and Does 1-50
inclusive. Dkt. 1-1. Defendant removed the case to this Court
on July 21, 2015. Dkt. 1. On March 6, 2017, the Court granted
in part and denied in part defendant's motion for summary
judgment. Dkt. 43. On May 9, 2017, the case proceeded to a
jury trial on five claims: (1) wrongful termination in
violation of public policy, (2) failure to reasonably
accommodate plaintiff's disability in violation of
California's Fair Employment and Housing Act
(“FEHA”), Cal. Gov. Code §§ 12900
et seq., (3) failure to engage in an interactive
process in violation of FEHA, (4) failure to take all
reasonable steps to prevent discrimination in violation of
FEHA, and (5) disability discrimination in violation of FEHA.
Dkts. 50, 60. On May 17, 2017, the jury returned a verdict
for plaintiff on all five claims and awarded him $1, 530, 000
in damages. Dkt. 83. On October 4, 2017, the Court denied
defendant's post-trial motions. Dkt. 95. The Court
entered judgment on March 13, 2018. Dkt. 122.
March 23, 2018, plaintiff filed the above-captioned motion
for attorneys' fees. Dkt. 124 (“Mot.”). On
April 4, 2018, defendant filed its opposition, dkt. 125
(“Opp'n”); and plaintiff filed a reply on
April 9, 2018, dkt. 128 (“Reply”). The Court held
a hearing on April 30, 2018. Having carefully considered the
parties' arguments, the Court finds and concludes as
FEHA, the Court has discretion to award reasonable
attorneys' fees to the prevailing party. Cal. Gov't
Code § 12965(b). Generally, “[a]bsent
circumstances rendering the award unjust, an attorney fee
award should ordinarily include compensation for all
the hours reasonably spent in litigating the action
to a successful conclusion.” Horsford v. Bd. of
Trustees of Cal. State Univ., 132 Cal.App.4th 359, 394
(2005) (citations and internal quotations omitted) (emphasis
in original). In order to accomplish the legislative purpose
of “assuring the availability of counsel to bring
meritorious actions under FEHA, the goal of an award of
attorney's fees is to fix a fee at the fair market value
for a particular action.” Id. at 394 (citing
Ketchum v. Moses, 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1132 (2001))
(internal quotations omitted).
federal and California courts have adopted the lodestar
method for calculating reasonable attorneys' fees.
Chavez v. City of Los Angeles, 47 Cal.4th 970,
984-85 (2010). The lodestar is the product of the hours
counsel reasonably spent on the case and a reasonable hourly
rate. Greene v. Dillingham Constr. N.A. Inc., 101
Cal.App.4th 418, 422 (2002). In determining whether the
plaintiff's claimed hours are reasonable, a court must
review attorneys' time records to determine whether the
hours are adequately documented in a manner that can be
properly billed directly to clients. Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-34 (1983). The court must
assess whether the hours claimed are vague, block-billed,
excessive or duplicative, or whether the hours in their
entirety must be reduced because of limited success in the
action. Cotton v. City of Eureka, 889 F.Supp.2d
1154, 1176 (N.D. Cal. 2012); Chavez, 47 Cal.4th at
989. To assist the court with this exercise of its
discretion, “[t]he fee applicant has the burden of
producing satisfactory evidence, in addition to the
affidavits of its counsel, that the requested rates are in
line with those prevailing in the community for similar
services of lawyers of reasonably comparable skill and
reputation.” Jordan v. Multnomah County, 815
F.2d 1258, 1263 (9th Cir. 1987).
calculating the lodestar amount, the court considers any
relevant factors listed in Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild,
Inc., 526 F.2d 67 (9th Cir. 1975), cert.
denied, 425 U.S. 951 (1976). To the extent that the
Kerr factors are not addressed in the calculation of
the lodestar, they may be considered in determining whether
the fee award should be adjusted upward or downward with a
multiplier, once the lodestar has been calculated.
Chalmers v. City of Los Angeles, 796 F.2d 1205, 1212
(9th Cir. 1986). However, there is a strong presumption that
the lodestar figure represents a reasonable fee.
Jordan, 815 F.2d at 1262.
seeks an award of attorneys' fees in the amount of $522,
112.50 for James A. Otto (“Otto”) and $103,
837.50 for Regina Ashkinadze (“Ashkinadze”)
adjusted by a multiplier of 2.5, which brings the total
requested fees to $1, 564, 875. Defendant argues there is no
reasonable basis to apply a multiplier in this case and asks
the Court to exclude excessive, redundant and otherwise
Reasonable Hourly Rate
determining a reasonable hourly rate, a court should look to
the prevailing market rates in the relevant legal community.
Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 551
(2010). By multiplying this rate by the number of hours
expended on the litigation, the fee award will “roughly
approximate[ ] the fee that the prevailing attorney would
have received if he or she had been representing a paying
client who was billed by the hour in a comparable
case.” Id. In determining a reasonable hourly
rate, a district court should consider “the experience,
skill, and reputation of the attorney requesting fees.”
Chalmers, 796 F.2d at 1210; see also Moreno v.
City of Sacramento, 534 F.3d 1106, 1114 (9th Cir. 2008)
(factors to consider include the novelty and difficulty of
the issues, the experience of counsel, and fee awards in
support of the attorneys' fees request, plaintiff submits
declarations by his counsel in addition to five declarations
by trial attorneys practicing in employment and general
litigation in the Los Angeles area. See dkt. 124-1.
Plaintiff's requested lodestar amount is based on an
hourly billing rate of $650 per hour for Otto and $450 per
hour for Ashkinadze. Mot. at 16. Otto is a sole practitioner
with over 28 years of employment litigation experience.
Declaration of James A. Otto (“Otto Decl.”)
¶¶ 3-6. Ashkinadze, also a sole practitioner, has
10 years of employment and civil rights litigation
experience. Declaration of Regina Ashkinadze
(“Ashkinadze Decl.”) ¶¶ 3-6. Todd F.
Nevell, Mark Lieber, Ali Moghaddami, Loren Nizinski and
Stephen C. Ball submitted declarations stating that the
requested rates are reasonable for attorneys of similar
skill, experience, and reputation for work of similar
complexity. Dkt. 124-1. Defendant does not dispute ...