Horvitz & Levy successfully defended against plaintiff’s appeal that sought to more than double a statutory fee award.
Plaintiff sought over $50,000 in attorney fees in a lemon law action under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Civ. Code § 1790 et seq.). The trial court reduced the award to $20,000. Plaintiff appealed.
Plaintiff contended on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to properly apply the lodestar method, and by failing to give a detailed explanation of its ruling that was sufficient to allow for meaningful appellate review. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly used the lodestar method, and that the trial court was justified in reducing the claimed amount because the request was inflated given the simple nature of the case and because many of the billed tasks could have been handled by support staff.
The Court of Appeal also rejected the “show your work approach” urged by plaintiff, which would have required the trial court to identify which time entries it had disallowed or reduced. Quoting the United States Supreme Court’s admonition that “‘trial courts need not, and indeed should not, become green eyeshade accountants,’” the Court of Appeal held that in awarding attorney fees in a lesser amount than requested, trial courts are not required to specify each and every claimed item found to be unsupported or unreasonable.