Judge: Michael P. Linfield, Case: 20STCV42627, Date: 2022-08-16 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 20STCV42627    Hearing Date: August 16, 2022    Dept: 34

SUBJECT:                 Motion of Plaintiff 226 Central, LLC for Attorney’s Fees Pursuant to C.C.P. § 1717, C.C.P. § 1032 (a), C.C.P. § 1033.5(a)(10), and C.C.P. § 998

Moving Party:          Plaintiff 226 Central, LLC

Resp. Party:             Defendants Subway Real Estate, LLC, Ajay Beri, and Rita Beri

 

 

Plaintiff 226 Central, LLC’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is DENIED.

 

 

I.           PRELIMINARY COMMENTS

 

In its Order determining that Defendants were the prevailing party, the Court stated:

 

“This litigation was a waste of time.  Before trial, Defendants had offered to pay $40,000.00 to Plaintiff.  After 1½ years of litigation, this case went to trial.  The Court awarded Plaintiff $40,000.00 – exactly what Defendants had offered prior to the litigation.  In other words, Plaintiff spent 1½ years of litigation – and untold scores of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees – and gained absolutely nothing.”  (July 19, 2022 Minute Order, p. 5.)

 

        This motion by Plaintiff is frivolous.  Plaintiff wishes the Court to determine that it is the prevailing party; however before even filing this motion, Plaintiff was aware that the Court had determined that Defendants were the prevailing party.  Plaintiff did not file a motion for reconsideration.  Since the Court has already decided this issue, the motion is patently frivolous.

 

II.        BACKGROUND

 

On November 6, 2020, Plaintiff 226 Central, LLC filed a complaint against Defendants Ajay Beri, Rita Beri a/k/a Ritu Beri and Subway Real Estate LLC alleging Breach of Contract.

 

On June 1, 2022, following a trial, the Court found in favor of Plaintiff 226 Central, LLC, and against Defendants Subway Real Estate, LLC, Ajay Beri, and Rita Beri, jointly and severally in the amount of $40,000.00. (Minute Order, June 1, 2022, pp. 1-2.)

 

On June 21, 2022, Defendants Ajay Beri, Rita Beri a/k/a Ritu Beri and Subway Real Estate LLC moved the Court “for an award of attorney fees pursuant to Civil Code section 1717, C.C.P. §1032(a) and (b), C.C.P. § 1033.5(a)(10) and C.C.P. §998 against Plaintiff 226 Central, LLC.” (Motion, filed June 21, 2022, p. 2:1-4.)

 

On July 19, 2022, the Court granted attorney’s fees in the amount of $75, 386.25 to Defendants Ajay Beri, Rita Beri a/k/a Ritu Beri and Subway Real Estate LLC. The Court wrote, “The Court finds that Defendants are the prevailing party in this litigation.” (Minute Order, July 19, 2022, p. 6.)

 

On July 19, 2022, 226 Central moved the Court “for an award of attorney’s fees pursuant to California Civil Code section 1717, C.C.P. § 31032(a)-(b), C.C.P. § 103.5(a)(10) and C.C.P § 998 against Defendants, SUBWAY REAL ESTATE, LLC, a limited liability company; AJAY BERI, and RITA BERI.” (Motion, p. 1:26-28.)

 

On July 25, 2022, Defendants opposed 226 Central’s motion for attorney’s fees.

 

On August 5, 2022, 226 Central replied to Defendants’ opposition.

 

III.     ANALYSIS

 

A.          Legal Standard

 

“‘Prevailing party’” includes the party with a net monetary recovery, a defendant in whose favor a dismissal is entered, a defendant where neither plaintiff nor defendant obtains any relief, and a defendant as against those plaintiffs who do not recover any relief against that defendant. If any party recovers other than monetary relief and in situations other than as specified, the “prevailing party” shall be as determined by the court, and under those circumstances, the court, in its discretion, may allow costs or not and, if allowed, may apportion costs between the parties on the same or adverse sides pursuant to rules adopted under Section 1034.” (CCP § 1032(a)(4).) “The court, upon notice and motion by a party, shall determine who is the party prevailing on the contract for purposes of this section, whether or not the suit proceeds to final judgment. Except as provided in paragraph (2), the party prevailing on the contract shall be the party who recovered a greater relief in the action on the contract. The court may also determine that there is no party prevailing on the contract for purposes of this section.” (Civil Code § 1717(b)(1).)

 

The determination of reasonable amount of attorney fees is within the sound discretion of trial courts. PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095; Akins v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. (2000) 79 Cal. App. 4th 1127, 1134. “In determining what constitutes a reasonable attorney fee when a contract or statute provides for such an award, courts should consider the nature of the litigation, its difficulty, the amount involved, and the skill required and success of the attorney's efforts, his or her learning, age and experience in the particular type of work demanded, the intricacies and importance of the litigation, the labor and necessity for skilled legal training and ability in trying the cause, and the time consumed.” Contractors Labor Pool, Inc. v. Westway Contractors, Inc. (1997) 53 Cal.App.4th 152, 168.

 

B.          Discussion

 

“The court, upon notice and motion by a party, shall determine who is the party prevailing on the contract for purposes of this section, whether or not the suit proceeds to final judgment. Except as provided in paragraph (2), the party prevailing on the contract shall be the party who recovered a greater relief in the action on the contract. The court may also determine that there is no party prevailing on the contract for purposes of this section.” (Civil Code § 1717(b)(1).)

 

On July 19, 2022, the Court found that Defendants Subway Real Estate, LLC, Ajay Beri, and Rita Beri were the prevailing party in this action. (Minute Order, July 19, 2022, p. 6.) The Court could not have been clearer:  “The Court finds that Defendants are the prevailing party in this litigation.” (Id.)

 

The Court’s Minute Order in which it found Defendants to be the prevailing party was issued at 8:30 a.m. on July 19, 2022.  (The Court had posted its tentative decision, which it adopted, two days previously.)  Plaintiff’s motion for attorney's fees was not filed until 3:49 p.m. on July 19, 2022; in other words, when Plaintiff filed its motion to be deemed the prevailing party and to be awarded attorney's fees, it already knew that the Court had determined that Defendants were the prevailing party.

 

Plaintiff 226 Central did not file a Motion for Reconsideration under CCP § 1008(a) of the Court’s July 19, 2022 order. The Court finds no additional facts, no newly discovered exhibits, nor any recent changes in the law in 226 Central’s motion for attorney’s fees. The Court finds no basis upon which to reexamine its determination that Defendants Subway Real Estate, LLC, Ajay Beri, and Rita Beri were the prevailing party in this action.

 

IV.       CONCLUSION

 

Plaintiff 226 Central, LLC’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees is DENIED.