Case Number: BC618819    Hearing Date: July 30, 2018    Dept: 78

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 78

SEUNGHOON KIM, an individual;

 

Plaintiff,

 

vs.

 

SH PREMIUM, INC., a California corporation dba Akasuma Rice Restaurant; and DOES 1-100, inclusive

 

Defendants.

Case No.: BC618819
Hearing Date: July 30, 2018
   
[TENTATIVE] RULING RE:

 

PLAINTIFF SEUNGHOON KIM’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES.

Plaintiff Seunghoon Kim’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is GRANTED in the amount of $365, 495.00.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This is a wage and hour case. Plaintiff Seunghoon Kim (“Kim”) alleges that at various periods from on or about August 2012 to July 2015, he was employed by defendant SH Premium as a nonexempt employee primarily engaged in chauffeuring SH Premium management, providing manual labor, gardening, cleaning, and performing personal assistant and scheduling services. (Complaint ¶ 9.) Kim alleges that he worked in excess of 40 hours per week without being paid the required overtime rate of pay, and was required to be on call during breaks. (Complaint ¶ 9.)

Kim further alleges other labor code violations, including that SH Premium failed to provide Plaintiff with proper meal and rest periods, failed to provide proper accounting of wages paid, and refused to permit Plaintiff to inspect and copy their employment records. (Complaint ¶ 8.)

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Kim filed his Complaint on April 29, 2016, alleging seven causes of action:

  1. Unlawful Business Practices (Bus. & Prof. Code 17200 et. seq.);
  2. Failure to Pay Overtime Wages;
  3. Failure to Provide Meal Breaks;
  4. Failure to Provide Rest Periods;
  5. Labor Code Section 203 Wages;
  6. Labor Code 226 Damages;
  7. Conversion.

SH Premium, Inc. filed its Answer on May 27, 2016.

The parties waived a jury trial, and this case proceeded to court trial on October 10-12, 2017. The court heard closing arguments on October 12, 20 7. The parties filed post-trial briefs, and this matter was submitted.

On October 30, 2017 this court issued its Tentative Statement of Decision.

On November 16, 2017, this court issued its final statement of decision and judgment, awarding Kim damages as follows:

  1. Unlawful Business Practices: $0
  2. Failure to Pay Overtime Wages: $69,018.71
  3. Failure to Provide Meal Breaks: $11,597.70
  4. Failure to Provide Rest Periods: $11,597.70
  5. Labor Code Section 203 Wages: $4,154.40
  6. Labor Code 226 Damages: $4,000

That same day, the court entered judgment for Kim totaling $100,368.51.

Kim on February 9, 2018, filed the present Motion for Attorneys’ Fees, and that same day served the motion. No opposition has been filed.

DISCUSSION

 

  • MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES

 

Kim seeks fees in the amount of $182,747.50, with a twofold multiplier, for a total award of $365,495.00. (Motion at p. 2.)

Parties to litigation must generally bear their own attorney’s fees, unless they otherwise agree. (Code Civ. Proc. § 1021.) However, various Labor Code provisions, upon which Kim brought suit here, provide for the collection of attorneys’ fees by prevailing plaintiffs. (Motion at p. 6; Lab. Code § 226, subd. (e)(1) [fees for knowing violations of itemized wage statement requirements]; Lab. Code § 1194, subd. (a) [fees for plaintiffs in overtime cases].) As the prevailing party in this matter on overtime and Section 226 claims, Kim is entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees.

“It is well established that the determination of what constitutes reasonable attorney fees is committed to the discretion of the trial court, whose decision cannot be reversed in the absence of an abuse of discretion.”  (Melnyk v. Robledo (1976) 64 Cal.App.3d 618, 623.)  In exercising its discretion, the court should consider a number of factors, including the nature of the litigation, its difficulty, the amount involved, the skill required in handling the matter, the attention given, the success or failure, and the resulting judgment.  (See id.)

In determining the proper amount of fees to award, courts use the lodestar method.  The lodestar figure is calculated by multiplying the total number of reasonable hours expended by the reasonable hourly rate.  “Fundamental to its determination . . . [is] a careful compilation of the time spent and reasonable hourly compensation of each attorney . . . in the presentation of the case.”  (Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20 Cal.3d 25, 48 (Serrano III).)  A reasonable hourly rate must reflect the skill and experience of the attorney.  (Id. at p. 49.)  “Prevailing parties are compensated for hours reasonably spent on fee-related issues.  A fee request that appears unreasonably inflated is a special circumstance permitting the trial court to reduce the award or deny one altogether.”  (Serrano v. Unruh (1982) 32 Cal.3d 621, 635 (Serrano IV).)  The Court in Serrano IV also stated that fees associated with preparing the motion to recover attorneys’ fees are recoverable.  (See id. at p. 624.)

Kim has submitted the declaration of his counsel Henry M. Lee, along with a table stating the services provided to Kim and the hours spent on that service. (Lee Decl. Exh. 7.) Lee explains that he expended 341.9 hours on this case at a rate of $525 per hour, plus ten hours of work by his associates at $325 per hour, for a total lodestar amount of $182,747.50 for 351.9 hours worked. (Lee Decl. ¶¶ 11–12.) No opposition has been submitted to this calculation. The court finds this rate and lodestar reasonable.

Kim requests that this court multiply the lodestar by two before granting this award, because it was prosecuted on a purely contingency basis. (Motion at p. 10; Lee Decl. ¶ 13.) “Once the court has fixed the lodestar, it may increase or decrease that amount by applying a positive or negative ‘multiplier’ to take into account a variety of other factors, including the quality of the representation, the novelty and complexity of the issues, the results obtained, and the contingent risk presented.” (Thayer v. Wells Fargo Bank., N.A. (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 819, 833.) “A contingent fee must be higher than a fee for the same legal services paid as they are performed. The contingent fee compensates the lawyer not only for the legal services he renders but for the loan of those services. The implicit interest rate on such a loan is higher because the risk of default (the loss of the case, which cancels the debt of the client to the lawyer) is much higher than that of conventional loans.” (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1132.)

Thus the court may apply a multiplier to Kim’s request based on the contingent nature of the recovery.

The court finds Kims requested twofold multiplier reasonable, given the contingent nature of the case and Kim’s substantial recovery in this action.

Kim’s Motion for Attorneys’ Fees is GRANTED in the amount of $365,495.00.

Plaintiff to give notice.

DATED:  July 30, 2018                                  ________________________________

Hon. Robert S. Draper

Judge of the Superior Court

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