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Gonzales v. CarMax Auto Superstores, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

January 6, 2017

Travis Z. Gonzales, an individual, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
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,
v.
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.C. No. 8:13-cv-01391-CJC-RNB

          Hallen D. Rosner (argued), Rosner, Barry & Babbitt, LLP, San Diego, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

          Kurt A. Schlichter (argued), Steven C. Shonack, Jamie L. Keeton, Schlichter & Shonack, LLP, El Segundo, California, for Defendants-Appellees/Cross-Appellants.

          Before: Stephen Reinhardt, Alex Kozinski, and Kim McLane Wardlaw, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY[*]

         Attorney's Fees / California Consumer Legal Remedies Act

         The 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.

         Section 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.

         The 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.

         The 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.

          ORDER

         Travis 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.

         Gonzales's 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.

         We 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.

         1. CarMax's correction offer, whether it was appropriate or not, does not bar Gonzales from ...


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