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Graciano v. Robinson Ford Sales, Inc.

Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division One

October 26, 2006, Filed



 [**277]  O'ROURKE, J.—Plaintiff Alba Graciano appeals from an order awarding her attorney fees following her post-liability-verdict settlement with defendant Robinson Ford Sales, Inc. (Robinson), arising out of claims she made after she purchased an automobile from that dealership. Graciano sued Robinson for damages and injunctive relief alleging 10 causes of action, and proceeded to trial on causes of action for violations of Civil Code section 1632, 1 the Automobile Sales Finance Act (ASFA, § 2981 et seq.), the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA, § 1750 et seq.), and the unfair competition law (UCL, Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.). After the jury made findings in Graciano's favor on those causes of action and found Robinson violated the CLRA with malice, fraud and [***2]  oppression, the parties entered into a settlement and Graciano moved for recovery of approximately $ 235,000 in attorney fees under the CLRA and ASFA. The trial court awarded Graciano attorney fees, but reduced her request to $ 27,570 for, among other things, Graciano's and Robinson's status as “equally prevailing parties,” its determination of a reasonable hourly rate for Graciano's counsel, and its application of a 1.3 negative multiplier.


Graciano appeals, contending the trial court erred in its attorney fee ruling by (1) capping the attorney fee award to a percentage of Graciano's settlement recovery; (2) finding Robinson had equally prevailed in the litigation, thus justifying application of a negative multiplier; (3) using a negative multiplier in the absence of unusual or special circumstances justifying such a reduction; and (4) imposing a single hourly rate for all of Graciano's attorneys with minimal positive multipliers for [***3]  her success at trial. Because Graciano's contentions have merit, we reverse the order and remand the matter for redetermination of a reasonable attorney fee award in accordance with the principles stated in this opinion.


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144 Cal. App. 4th 140 *; 50 Cal. Rptr. 3d 273 **; 2006 Cal. App. LEXIS 1659 ***; 2006 Cal. Daily Op. Service 9990; 2006 Daily Journal DAR 14207

ALBA GRACIANO, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. ROBINSON FORD SALES, INC., Defendant and Respondent.

Prior History:  [***1]  Superior Court of Imperial County, No. L-01452, Barrett J. Foerster, Judge.


cause of action, attorney's fees, multiplier, prevailing party, lodestar, prevailing, settlement, trial court, cases, patrol, legal services, hourly rate, calculating, purposes, factors, attorney's fees award, negotiated, consumer, rates, reasonable attorney's fees, declaration, comparable, adjust, courts, costs, reasonable hourly rate, injunctive relief, apportionment, circumstances, contingent

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Costs & Attorney Fees, Attorney Fees & Expenses, Reasonable Fees, De Novo Review, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Antitrust & Trade Law, Consumer Protection, Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices, State Regulation, Basis of Recovery, Statutory Awards, Remands, Costs & Attorney Fees