Northern California Record

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Orange County lemon law case to be heard Friday; Judge slashes plaintiff attorney's $1,280 rate to $550

State Court

By Karen Kidd | Sep 5, 2019

Kiesel and Koncius

SANTA  ANA — After calling out plaintiff attorneys for attempting to charge hourly rates "far out of line" with rates charged by co-counsel, Orange County Judge William D. Claster is expected on Friday to hear more arguments on costs and expenses related to the settlement of 2014 lemon law litigation, Hodges v. Ford Motor Co. 

On Aug. 26 Claster granted counsel for plaintiffs Kenneth and Glenda Hodges $128,252 in attorneys' fees, which included a lodestar of $116,593 and a multiplier of 1.1, but he continued hearing on costs and expenses. He's also expected to take up a defense motion to tax costs at Friday's 9 a.m. hearing.

Claster's order, entered following an Aug. 23 hearing, took issue with attorneys Paul R. Kiesel and Jeffrey A. Koncius, partners in Kiesel Law on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, who claimed rates of $895 and $1,280 per hour respectively.

The rates "are far out of line with the other rates plaintiffs' counsel seek in this matter and nothing in plaintiffs' supporting papers explains how the work they have done in the case justifies the claimed rates," Claster stated, and are "far in excess of even the 95th percentile of rates for California consumer attorneys..."

"The Court finds all claimed hourly rates by Plaintiffs' counsel to be reasonable, with the exception of the rates of attorneys Kiesel and Koncius," Claster stated in his order.

Kiesel, a 1985 graduate of Whittier College School of Law in Costa Mesa admitted to the bar in California in December of that same year, is a personal injury, class action, environmental and toxic tort litigation attorney.

Koncius, a 1995 graduate of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York admitted to the bar in California in September 1997, is a civil litigator who handles class actions, mass torts financial services litigation.

Ford Motor Company has argued, among other things, that the plaintiffs and their counsel should be denied statutory fees, or that those fees should be reduced, because attorneys for the Hodges were working on contingency.

"Ford contends this is necessary to avoid the risk of 'double dipping' such that counsel collects an unconscionable fee," Claster said in his order.

In the meantime, plaintiffs' counsel had argued that reducing Kiesel and Koncius'  hourly rates "would be an abuse of discretion" because Ford didn't rebut evidence and argument that the rates were reasonable, according to Claster's order.

Claster held that a more reasonable would be the $550 per hour each for Kiesel and Koncius, the same rate claimed by Steve B. Mikhov, founding partner at Knight Law Group in Los Angeles, who was lead counsel in the Hodges case, according to Claster's order.

The Hodges sought more than $74,000 for Knight Law Group's services in the case.

"The billing reflects multiple status conferences that were attended by multiple attorneys," Claster said in his order. "The court does not believe multiple attorneys are reasonably necessary to handle status conferences and therefore allows recover only for the senior-most attorney in attendance."

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Organizations in this Story

Kiesel Law LLPOrange County Superior CourtKnight Law Group LLP

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