Court of Appeal Clarifies Rules For Determining Awards Of Attorney's Fees To Prevailing Plaintiffs

A number of California statutes permit plaintiffs who prevail on various wage and hour claims to recover attorney's fees and costs. See, e.g., California Labor Code Sections 218.5, 226 (e), and 1194. Courts are also permitted to enhance such fee awards by applying a multiplier, which can result in an award of attorney's fees significantly higher than what a plaintiffs' attorney would be paid by the hour at market hourly rates.

In Pellegrino v. Robert Half International, Inc., a companion decision to the decision we previously discussed here, the Court of Appeal addressed certain issues about how awards of attorney's fees are to be determined:

1. The court reiterated that an award of attorney's fees is not available to plaintiffs who prevail on claims for alleged violation of California's Unfair Competition Law codified at California Business and Professions Code Section 17200, et seq., which forbids business practices that are unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent. Plaintiffs alleging violations of the Labor Code nearly always allege also violations of the Unfair Competition Law because a four-year statute of limitations period applies to the Unfair Competition Law instead of the three-year statute of limitations that applies to many alleged violations of the Labor Code.

2. The court held, however, that when alleged violations of the Labor Code and of the Unfair Competition Law are sufficiently interrelated, a court is not required to allocate between fees "incurred" to pursue alleged violation(s) of the Labor Code and fees "incurred" to pursue alleged violations of the Unfair Competition Law. The court held the trial court made no error when it reduced the fee award by 15% to account for fees "incurred" to pursue the plaintiffs' claims for alleged violation of the Unfair Competition law.

3. The court affirmed the trial court's use of a 1.75 multiplier to enhance the award of attorney's fees to the plaintiffs' attorneys for fees "incurred" to pursue the plaintiffs' substantive claims, which effectively increased the award from $558,926.85 to $978,121.98.

4. The court held the trial court erred when it applied a multiplier to the fees "incurred" to pursue the plaintiffs' claims for an award of attorney's fees. The court reasoned that the factors that support applying a multiplier to an award of attorney's fees to the plaintiffs for their substantive claims does not apply to attorney's fees "incurred" to pursue an award of attorney's fees.

Other AALRR Blogs

Recent Posts

Popular Categories

Contributors

Archives

Back to Page

By scrolling this page, clicking a link or continuing to browse our website, you consent to our use of cookies as described in our Cookie and Privacy Policy. If you do not wish to accept cookies from our website, or would like to stop cookies being stored on your device in the future, you can find out more and adjust your preferences here.