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Hanna v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC

Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Seven

June 18, 2019, Opinion Filed



 [**658]  PERLUSS, P. J.—To settle Mary Hanna's lawsuit under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Civ. Code, § 1790 et seq.; Song-Beverly Act), Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, agreed on January 27, 2017 to pay Hanna $60,000 plus a sum equal to her costs and expenses in pursuing the action, “including attorney's fees based on actual time reasonably incurred … pursuant to Civil Code Section 1794(d), to be determined by court motion if the parties cannot agree.” After failing to reach agreement with Mercedes-Benz, Hanna moved for an award of $259,068.75 in attorney fees using the lodestar method1—a $172,712.50 base amount with a 1.5 multiplier—and costs of $15,547.07. The trial court awarded only $60,869 in fees, limiting Hanna's recovery for fees incurred after January 21, 2016 to $15,000 based [*497]  on the court's interpretation of a percentage-based contingency fee provision [***2]  in the retainer agreement between  [**659]  Hanna and her counsel. The court awarded all costs sought by Hanna except for $2,137.86 paid to her initial expert.

On appeal Hanna contends the court abused its discretion in failing to apply the lodestar method to determine attorney fees for the period after January 21, 2016 and by disallowing the fee paid to her first expert as a recoverable cost. We agree the court used, in part, an improper method to determine reasonable attorney fees and remand for it to recalculate Hanna's fee award. We affirm the court's cost award.


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36 Cal. App. 5th 493 *; 248 Cal. Rptr. 3d 654 **; 2019 Cal. App. LEXIS 556 ***; 2019 WL 2511940

MARY HANNA, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. MERCEDES-BENZ USA, LLC, Defendant and Respondent.

Subsequent History: Review denied by, 09/11/2019

Prior History:  [***1] APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, No. BC552038, Barbara Ann Meiers, Judge.

Disposition: Reversed and remanded with directions.


attorney's fees, costs, trial court, settlement, fee agreement, contingency, retainer agreement, hourly rate, offer to compromise, Song-Beverly Act, settlement offer, actual damage, subdivision, law firm, declaration, inspection, reasonable attorney's fees, additional damage, calculated, lodestar, buyer, lodestar method, actual time, fee award, collateral, prevailing, awarding, billing, parties, time expended

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Final Judgment Rule, Collateral Order Doctrine, Antitrust & Trade Law, Consumer Protection, Vehicle Warranties, Lemon Laws, Costs & Attorney Fees, Attorney Fees & Expenses, Reasonable Fees, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, De Novo Review, Basis of Recovery, Statutory Awards, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, Legal Ethics, Client Relations, Attorney Fees, Fee Agreements, Settlements, Offers of Judgment, Rejection, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review