LOS ANGELES — BMW’s motion for a retrial alleging excessive awards to the plaintiff in a lemon law case was denied May 7 by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Judge Otis D. Wright II wrote the court order to deny BMW’s motion for retrial and granting in part and denying in part the plaintiffs’ motions for attorney's fees and costs. The plaintiffs filed a motion for attorney's fees and to amend the judgment to include prejudgment interest.
“BMW has not done itself any favors in opposing the (plaintiffs) Motion," Wright wrote.
Joe Ruiz Sr. and Joe Ruiz Jr. filed suit against BMW in 2015 for breach of implied warranty and breach of express warranty under California’s Lemon Law. The Ruizes bought a 2014 BMW 428i in 2014 that they claimed began to have problems soon after purchase including the vehicle shaking, the service engine light coming on repeatedly and fuel gauge issues. The Ruizes claimed that despite several requests for BMW to repurchase their car, as required by law, BMW did not offer to repurchase the car until the car stopped in the middle of the freeway.
In January, a jury found in favor of the Ruizes and they were awarded $170,076.57 after finding that BMW had breached the warranty by failing to offer to promptly repurchase the vehicle and by providing an incorrect mileage deduction for the repurchase. The jury awarded the Ruizes twice the amount of damages in civil penalties, finding that BMW had acted willfully.
BMW objected to the award, finding the double civil penalty was excessive because the jury had a bias against it, and that the “incidental and consequential damages was contrary to the law,” according to information in the ruling. BMW also objected to the Ruizes motion for attorney’s fees, claiming that the case was “over litigated," and that the fees were inflated, duplicative, and excessive.
Wright wrote that BMW did not object to jurors during selection. The order also stated that despite the Ruizes' attorney’s closing argument using an analogy that was “zesty and in bad taste” that compared his clients’ struggles to Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, the jury’s decision was not based solely on the closing argument by the attorney.
“That the jury chose to believe the evidence presented, despite BMW’s argument to the contrary, does not detract from the legitimacy of the jury’s verdict," he wrote.
The court denied the motion for prejudgment interest, stating “Because the damages were not liquidated, or reasonably calculable without dispute, the Court declines to apply Section 3287(a), which requires mandatory prejudgment interest.”
Wright awarded partial attorney’s fees for the Ruizes, but the court order did strike $4,550 from the Ruizes attorney’s fees that were duplicate fees and billable hours entered by one member of counsel for a conference and trial he did not attend. Wright stated of these fees, “The Court cannot fathom how this entry is accurate, and it is not reasonable.”
Wright denied the motion for prejudgment costs, stating the Ruizes failed to provide evidence with an itemized statement of their costs, writing, “The Court cannot decipher the stack of receipts the Ruizes submit in support of their application.”