Judge: Peter A. Hernandez, Case: 20PSCV00512, Date: 2022-08-09 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 20PSCV00512    Hearing Date: August 9, 2022    Dept: O

Plaintiff Tao Wu’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees, Costs and Prejudgment Interests Against Defendant ABC Lucky Transportation, Inc. is GRANTED, in the reduced amount of $10,000.00 in attorney’s fees and $2,291.20 in costs.


Plaintiff Tao Wu (“Plaintiff”) was employed by ABC Lucky Transportation, Inc. (“ABC”) and Huilong Lai (“Lai”) as an hourly paid, non-exempt driver from July 8, 2019 to May 17, 2020. Plaintiff alleges that ABC and Lai violated various Labor Code provisions by failing to pay overtime wages, to provide rest and meal periods, to timely pay wages upon termination and to provide complete and accurate wage statements. Plaintiff also alleges that he was wrongfully terminated after requesting overtime wages.

On August 5, 2020, Plaintiff filed a complaint, asserting causes of action against ABC, Lai and Does 1-50 for:


1.                  Failure to Pay Overtime Wages (Cal. Labor Code §§ 221, 223, 510)

2.                  Failure to Provide Meal and Rest Periods (Cal. Labor Code §§ 226.7, 512)

3.                  Waiting Time Penalties (Cal. Labor Code §§ 201-203)

4.                  Non-Compliant Wage Statement (Cal. Labor Code § 226(a))

5.                  Unfair Competition (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200 et seq.)

6.                  Private Attorney General Act

7.                  Wrongful Termination

8.                  Retaliation


On March 10, 2022, ABC and Lai filed an “Offer to Compromise and Acceptance Under Code of Civil Procedure Section 998.” On March 28, 2022, judgment was filed.

On July 22, 2022, the court granted ABC’s and Lai’s motion for dismissal and ordered ABC and Lai dismissed with prejudice.

Legal Standard

“’Prevailing party’ includes the party with a net monetary recovery . . . Except as otherwise expressly provided by statute, a prevailing party is entitled as a matter of right to recover costs in any action or proceeding.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 1032, subds. (a)(4) & (b).)

“The following items are allowable as costs under Section 1032: . . . (10) Attorney’s fees, when authorized by any of the following: (A) Contract. (B) Statute. (C) Law . . .” (Code Civ. Proc., § 1033.5, subd. (a)(10).)

“In any action brought for the nonpayment of wages, . . . the court shall award reasonable attorney's fees and costs to the prevailing party if any party to the action requests attorney's fees and costs upon the initiation of the action.” (Lab. Code § 218.5, subd. (a).) “This section does not apply to any cause of action for which attorney’s fees are recoverable under Section 1194.” (Lab. Code § 218.5, subd. (b).)

“Notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage, any employee receiving less than the legal minimum wage or the legal overtime compensation applicable to the employee is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance of the full amount of this minimum wage or overtime compensation, including interest thereon, reasonable attorney's fees, and costs of suit.” (Lab. Code § 1194.)


Plaintiff moves the court for an order granting his attorney’s fees and costs, together with prejudgment interest, in the amount of $133,555.76, to be added to the judgment as against ABC.

Request for Judicial Notice

At the outset, the court denies ABC’s Request for Judicial Notice.


1.                  Entitlement to Fees

On or about February 28, 2022 Plaintiff accepted Defendants’ Code of Civil Procedure § 998 offer for “Judgment in the amount of $35,000.00 against Defendant ABC Lucky Transportation, Inc., and in favor of Plaintiff Tao Wu. This Judgment is in addition to the costs and reasonable attorney’s fees that may be claimed by Plaintiff pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 1032 & 1033.5.” It is undisputed that Plaintiff is the “prevailing party” under Code of Civil Procedure § 1032.

Plaintiff seeks attorneys’ fees pursuant to Labor Code §§ 218.5 and 1194. Plaintiff’s complaint contained eight causes of action, for (1) Failure to Pay Overtime Wages (Cal. Labor Code §§ 221, 223, 510), (2) Failure to Provide Meal and Rest Periods (Cal. Labor Code §§ 226.7, 512), (3) Waiting Time Penalties (Cal. Labor Code §§ 201-203), (4) Non-Compliant Wage Statement (Cal. Labor Code § 226(a)), (5) Unfair Competition (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200 et seq.), (6) Private Attorney General Act, (7) Wrongful Termination and (8) Retaliation.

ABC asserts that Plaintiff is entitled to attorneys’ fees under Labor Code §§ 218.5 and 1194 for his first cause of action only. Plaintiff does not challenge ABC’s assertion, including ABC’s reliance on Kirby v. Immoos (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1244, 1248 [i.e., “neither section 1194 nor section 218.5 authorizes an award of attorney’s fees to a party that prevails on a section 226.7 claim”];instead, Plaintiff merely argues, without more, that “[a]ll the causes of action arose from the same facts” and “require[d] Plaintiff to conduct similar discoveries on those facts, including: the fact that Plaintiff was employed by Defendants. The employee or independent contractor nature of Plaintiff’s job; the wages Plaintiff received and the hours Plaintiff worked for Defendants; Defendant’s employment and wage policies; and Plaintiff’s internal complaint regarding Defendant’s illegal wage and hour practices, etc.” (Zhou Decl., ¶ 4.)

2.                  Reasonableness of Fees

The court turns to the issue of reasonableness of fees. “[T]rial courts have broad discretion in determining the amount of a reasonable attorney's fee award.” (Meister v. Regents of University of California (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 437, 452.)

“[T]he fee setting inquiry in California ordinarily begins with the ‘lodestar,’ i.e., the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate.” (PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095.) “The lodestar is the basic fee for comparable legal services in the community; it may be adjusted by the court based on factors including, as relevant herein, (1) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, (2) the skill displayed in presenting them, (3) the extent to which the nature of the litigation precluded other employment by the attorneys, (4) the contingent nature of the fee award.” (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1132.)

a.         Reasonableness of Hourly Rates

“In determining hourly rates, the court must look to the prevailing market rates in the relevant community. The rates of comparable attorneys in the forum district are usually used. In making its calculation, the court should also consider the experience, skill, and reputation of the attorney requesting fees. The court may rely on its own knowledge and familiarity with the legal market in setting a reasonable hourly rate.” (Heritage Pacific Financial, LLC v. Monroy (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 972, 1009 [internal quotations and citations omitted].)

The hourly rates in this matter are set forth as follows:

Thomas Z. Zhou - $325.00

Steve Qi -  $450.00

Steven Sugars - $450.00

Based on the court’s own experience and knowledge, as well as on the experience and qualifications of counsel as set forth in the Declaration of Thomas Z. Zhou, the court finds that requested hourly rates are appropriate.

b.         Reasonableness of Time Incurred


“[V]erified time statements of the attorneys, as officers of the court, are entitled to credence in the absence of a clear indication the records are erroneous. (Horsford v. Board of Trustees of California State University (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 359, 396.)  “In challenging attorney fees as excessive because too many hours of work are claimed, it is the burden of the challenging party to point to the specific items challenged, with a sufficient argument and citations to the evidence. General arguments that fees claimed are excessive, duplicative, or unrelated do not suffice.” (Premier Medical Management Systems, Inc. v. California Ins. Guarantee Assn. (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 550, 564.)

Zhou has attached his firm’s invoices as Exhibit 1 to his declaration. The firm billed a total of 191.2 hours in this matter, broken down as follows:

             Thomas Z. Zhou – 172.3 hours

Steve Qi -  18.5 hours

Steven Sugars – 0.4 hours

The total Lodestar requested is $64,502.50. The court determines that a significant reduction of this amount is appropriate, given that Plaintiff does not meaningfully challenge ABC’s assertion that Plaintiff is entitled to attorney’s fees on his first cause of action only (i.e., out of eight causes of action). ABC has suggested a reduction of the fee award to $10,000.00. The court determines that this suggestion is appropriate, inasmuch as a reduction of 87.5% (i.e., representing 7/8 of Plaintiff’s causes of action) of $64,502.50 would otherwise result in a fee award of $8,062.81.

3.                  Entitlement to Multiplier

Plaintiff next requests a multiplier of 2.0. “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 [quotation marks and citation omitted].) “[T]he party seeking a fee enhancement bears the burden of proof.” (Ketchum, supra, 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1138.)

Plaintiff’s counsel has not articulated any basis warranting the imposition of a multiplier under these circumstances. The court finds that Plaintiff is not entitled to a multiplier.

4.                  Costs

Plaintiff is entitled to costs in the amount of $2,291.20. On April 5, 2022, Plaintiff filed a Memorandum of Costs for the aforesaid amount. ABC has not filed a motion to tax same, to date.

5.                  Conclusion


The motion is granted in the reduced amount of $10,000.00 in attorney’s fees. Costs are awarded in the amount of $2,291.20.
Plaintiff’s request for a multiplier is denied.