January 6, 2017
Travis Z. Gonzales, an individual, Plaintiff-Appellee,
CarMax Auto Superstores, LLC, a Virginia Limited Liability Company; Santander Consumer USA, Inc., an Illinois Corporation; Safeco Insurance Company of America, a New Hampshire Corporation, Defendants-Appellants. Travis Z. Gonzales, an individual, Plaintiff-Appellant,
CarMax Auto Superstores, LLC, a Virginia Limited Liability Company; Santander Consumer USA, Inc., an Illinois Corporation; Safeco Insurance Company of America, a New Hampshire Corporation, Defendants-Appellees.
D. Rosner (argued), Rosner, Barry & Babbitt, LLP, San
Diego, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
A. Schlichter (argued), Steven C. Shonack, Jamie L. Keeton,
Schlichter & Shonack, LLP, El Segundo, California, for
Before: Stephen Reinhardt, Alex Kozinski, and Kim McLane
Wardlaw, Circuit Judges.
Fees / California Consumer Legal Remedies Act
panel held that plaintiff Travis Gonzales was not barred from
recovering appellate attorney's fees against CarMax Auto
Superstores, LLC, under Section 1782 of the California
Consumer Legal Remedies Act ("CLRA"), and remanded
to the district court to determine in the first instance
whether Gonzales qualified as a prevailing plaintiff under
the CLRA and the reasonableness of the fees he requested.
1782(b) of the CLRA provides that "no action for damages
may be maintained under Section 1780 if an appropriate
correction . . . is given . . . to the consumer within 30
days after receipt of the notice." Interpreting Section
1782, the California Court of Appeal held that no
attorney's fees were recoverable in actions for damages
under the CLRA unless the plaintiff's notice letter is
not appropriate or timely.
panel held that because plaintiff Gonzales sought only
injunctive relief for CarMax's violation of the CLRA,
CarMax's correction offer did not bar Gonzales from
recovering attorney's fees. The panel held that Section
1782(b) applied only to an action for damages.
panel held that it was relatively clear that Gonzales
achieved his litigation objectives, where he was awarded
summary judgment on appeal but the district court still had
to enter a final judgment on remand. The panel concluded that
the district court should determine in the first instance
whether Gonzales was a "prevailing party" under
section 1780(e) of the CLRA, and the reasonableness of
Gonzales' requested attorney's fees.
Z. Gonzales seeks attorney's fees under California's
Consumer Legal Remedies Act ("CLRA") in connection
with these two appeals, which were consolidated for purposes
of oral argument and decision. In Case No. 14-56842, we
granted summary judgment to Gonzales on his CLRA and Unfair
Competition Law claims. In Case No. 14-56305, we affirmed the
district court's denial of attorney's fees to CarMax
under Section 1780(e) of the CLRA.
application for appellate attorney's fees presents the
following issues: (1) whether Gonzales is barred from
collecting attorney's fees because CarMax proffered an
appropriate correction pursuant to Section 1782 of the CLRA;
(2) whether Gonzales is a "prevailing plaintiff"
under Section 1780(e) of the CLRA; (3) whether Gonzales's
attorney's fee requests are reasonable.
conclude that Gonzales is not barred from recovering
attorney's fees under Section 1782 of the CLRA.
Consequently, we remand to the district court to determine in
the first instance whether Gonzales qualifies as a prevailing
plaintiff under the CLRA and the reasonableness of the fees
he has requested.
CarMax's correction offer, whether it was appropriate or
not, does not bar Gonzales from recovering attorney's
California Civil Code § 1782(b), "no action for
damages may be maintained under Section 1780 [of the CLRA] if
an appropriate correction, repair, replacement, or other
remedy is given, or agreed to be given within a reasonable
time, to the consumer within 30 days after receipt of the
notice." CarMax argues that it made a timely and
appropriate CLRA correction offer, which Gonzales rejected.
Therefore, according to CarMax, Gonzales is barred from
recovering any fees for continuing to pursue his claims. We
reject CarMax's argument.
California Court of Appeal has "interpreted section 1782
to create a requirement analogous to exhaustion of
administrative remedies" and therefore has concluded
that "[a]ttorney fees are not recoverable in actions for
damages under the CLRA unless the response to the
notice letter is not an appropriate one or no response is
forthcoming within the statutory time period."
Benson v. S. Cal. Auto Sales Inc., 192 Cal.Rptr.3d
67, 77 (Cal.Ct.App.), review denied (2015) (emphasis
added). The Benson court, however, explicitly
declined to "address the requirements for an attorney
fee award based on a request for injunctive relief."
Id. at 77-78.
addition to actual and punitive damages, the CLRA explicitly
authorizes injunctive relief, restitution, and "[a]ny
other relief that the court deems proper." Cal. Civ.
Code § 1780(a). In the present case, Gonzales'
Second Amended Complaint did "not seek damages of any
kind" on his CLRA claim, but rather sought only an
"injunction prohibiting acts or practices which violate
the CLRA." As the California Supreme Court noted,
"section 1782, subdivision (d) contemplates the filing
of a CLRA action for injunctive relief alone, and such
actions are not subject to the requirements of subdivisions
(a) and (b) of notice and allowance for voluntary correction,
" which apply only to an action for damages. Meyer
v. Sprint Spectrum L.P., 200 P.3d 295, 301 (Cal. 2009).
Because Gonzales sought only injunctive relief for violation
of the CLRA,  CarMax's correction offer does not bar
Gonzales from recovering attorney's fees.
The district court should address whether Gonzales is a
prevailing plaintiff in the first instance
the CLRA, "[t]he court shall award court costs and
attorney's fees to a prevailing plaintiff in
litigation." Cal. Civ. Code § 1780(e). Because the
CLRA does not define the term "prevailing plaintiff,
" California courts have "adopt[ed] a pragmatic
approach, determining prevailing party status based on which
party succeeded on a practical level." Graciano v.
Robinson Ford Sales, Inc., 50 Cal.Rptr.3d 273, 281-82
(Cal.Ct.App. 2006). "Under that approach, the court
exercises its discretion to determine the prevailing party by
analyzing which party realized its litigation
objectives." Id. at 282(citation and quotation
marks omitted); Parkinson v. Hyundai Motor Am., 796
F.Supp.2d 1160, 1169 (C.D. Cal. 2010) ("A plaintiff is
the prevailing party if he or she obtained a 'net
monetary recovery' or 'realized its litigation
objectives, ' including pursuant to a settlement
agreement.") (quoting Kim v. Euromotors W./The Auto
Gallery, 56 Cal.Rptr.3d 780, 786 (Cal.Ct.App. 2007)).
California Court of Appeal has also instructed, however, that
"[d]eterminations of whether [a plaintiff] is a
'prevailing plaintiff' and the amount to be awarded,
if any, are to be made, in the first instance, by the trial
court in the sound exercise of its discretion."
Kim, 56 Cal.Rptr.3d at 788. Here, as CarMax argues,
although Gonzales was awarded summary judgment on appeal, our
opinion did not order a particular remedy-the district court
must still enter a final judgment on remand. Consequently,
although it is relatively clear that Gonzales "achieved
his litigation objectives" on appeal, the district court
should, after fashioning a remedy in conformity with our
opinion, determine in the first instance whether Gonzales
qualifies as a prevailing plaintiff under Section 1780(e) of
the CLRA and the reasonableness of Gonzales' requested
attorney's fees in both case No. 14-56842 and 14-56305.
IS SO ORDERED.
[*] This summary constitutes no part of
the opinion of the court. It has been prepared by court staff
for the convenience of the reader.
 As explained in our original opinion,
CarMax violated Section 11713.18(a)(6) of the California
Vehicle Code, and violations of that provision are
"actionable under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act."
Cal. Veh. Code § 11713.18(b); see also Gonzales v.
CarMax Auto Superstores, LLC, 840 F.3d 644, 649 (9th
 We are not presented here with the
question of a plaintiff who seeks both injunctive relief and
damages under the CLRA, and accordingly express no view on