In Goglin v. BMW of North America, Inc., ___ Cal.App.5th ___ (Oct. 21, 2016), the Court of Appeal (Fourth Appellate District, Division One) affirmed an attorneys' fees award under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. (The case also included CLRA claims, but fees were awarded only under the Song-Beverly Act.) Slip op. at 11-17.
The part of the opinion I thought most worthy of note involved the defendant's argument that it paid its own lawyers a "much lower" hourly rate than claimed by plaintiff's counsel in the fee motion. According to the defendant, plaintiff's counsel's rate should be capped at the rate set by defendant's agreement with its lawyers. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument, holding that defense counsel rates were "not conclusive" and that the trial court need not accept them as evidence of the appropriate hourly rate to be awarded. Id. at 16-17.
[T]he trial court, who considered all of the evidence before it and observed [plaintiff]'s counsel's lawyering skills firsthand, determined $575 was an appropriate hourly rate. As the record does not show this determination was clearly wrong, we cannot conclude the trial court abused its discretion in basing its fee award on this hourly rate.
Id. at 17.