Simply Lodging Billings With Court Before Hearing Did Not Suffice.
The key lesson from Promark Financial Ins. Marketing, Inc. v. McGee, Case No. G047723 (4th Dist., Div. 3 Feb. 26, 2014) (unpublished), a 3-0 decision from our local Santa Ana appellate court authored by Justice Aronson, is that one needs to submit detailed billing substantiation, as a general rule, in support of a fee motion. We can say this is a good rule of thumb in general (subject to reasonable redactions), but even more so in this case where the billings were from a fee claimant’s counsel who had died. Reconstructed time by successor counsel may not cut it.
Here, a fee claimant prevailing on a contractual claim with a fees clause and not prevailing on other claims under the Labor Code with a fee-shifting provision sought $90,300 in fees based on the work by a counsel who unfortunately had died of brain cancer. Another successor attorney tried to substantiate fees, but did not lodge the actual billings—after some objections from the other side and a continuance in the fee motion—until a couple of the days before the hearing, not providing a copy of billings to the opposition.
The trial court denied fees altogether, a result affirmed by the appellate court. Reason? Really, due process to summarize things (although other issues were raised, unnecessary to decide.) Because prior counsel had died, the trial judge could conclude that billings were necessary rather than a “cold” record. That, in tandem with the failure to provide the other side with copies of the billings, cemented the propriety of the result from a “meaningful review” point of view.