United States District Court, D. Nevada
before the court is defendant George Ranalli's motion for
attorney's fees. (ECF No. 77). Plaintiff Century Surety
Company filed a response (ECF No. 82), to which Ranalli
replied (ECF No. 88).
before the court is defendant Dennis Prince's motion for
attorney's fees. (ECF No. 79). Plaintiff filed a response
(ECF No. 83), to which Prince replied (ECF No. 87).
before the court is defendant Silvia Esparza's motion for
attorney's fees. (ECF No. 81). Plaintiff filed a response
(ECF No. 84), to which Esparza replied (ECF No. 90).
present case concerns an alleged scheme to fraudulently
procure a multi-million dollar judgment against Century as a
result of a catastrophic vehicle accident. (ECF No. 1).
Century brought two claims against defendants: violations of
Nevada Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
(“RICO”) per NRS 207.470, id. at 12-18;
and civil conspiracy, alleging that defendants Prince,
Ranalli, and Esparza engaged in a “bad faith insurance
‘setup, '” id. at 2, 18- 19.
Vasquez (“Vasquez”) is the sole owner and manager
of Blue Streak Auto Detailing, LLC (“Blue
Streak”). (ECF No. 1 at 3). On January 12, 2009,
Vasquez was driving his Ford F-150 truck on St. Rose Parkway
when he struck Ryan Pretner (“Pretner”), who was
riding his bicycle on the shoulder of the road. (ECF Nos. 1
at 3, 37 at 3). Pretner was “violently thrown from his
bicycle resulting in a catastrophic brain injury and over $2,
000, 000 in medical expenses.” (ECF No. 37 at 3).
Vasquez was allegedly “‘off work' and running
‘personal errands' at the time of the
[a]ccident.” (ECF No. 1 at 6).
time, Vasquez had a personal automobile liability insurance
policy (“personal policy”) from Progressive.
Id. at 3. Blue Streak, a mobile detailing business
owned and operated by Vasquez, was covered by a commercial
liability garage coverage policy (“garage
policy”) from Century. (ECF Nos. 1 at 3, 37 at 3). The
personal policy had a $100, 000 policy limit whereas the
garage policy had a $1, 000, 000 policy limit. (ECF No. 37 at
was initially represented by Esparza. (ECF No. 1 at 7).
Progressive offered Esparza the personal policy limit-$100,
000-immediately following the accident. (ECF No. 37 at 4).
Due to the severity of Pretner's injuries, “Esparza
could not provide a release until all possible insurance
coverage was exhausted.” Id. at 4. Esparza
made a demand on Century for its policy limit. Id.
Century denied the demand, taking the position that coverage
did not exist under its policy because Vasquez was not acting
in the scope or course of business at the time of the
accident. Id. Next, Esparza requested a copy of
Century's garage policy. Id. However, Century
refused to provide Esparza with a copy of the garage policy.
was retained by Pretner roughly three weeks prior to the
applicable statute of limitations deadline. Id. at
17. At that time, Esparza's involvement in the case
ceased. (ECF No. 18 at 3). Prince filed a complaint against
Vasquez and Blue Streak “[o]n January 7, 2011, five
days before the statute of limitations expired.” (ECF
No. 37 at 5).
alleges “Prince informed Progressive that he planned to
represent [p]laintiffs before filing suit against Vasquez and
Blue Streak, but assured Progressive that he planned to set
up [p]laintiff Century Surety for a subsequent bad faith
claim and that he would not pursue Vasquez personally.”
(ECF No. 1 at 4). Century further alleges “[t]here was
no evidence to support [that Vasquez was in the course and
scope of his business at the time of the accident] and all of
the evidence available and known to [Prince, Esparza, and
Ranalli], expressly contradicted material allegations in the
on the other hand, argues that “[t]he claims against
Blue Streak were based upon allegations that Vasquez was in
the course and scope of his employment at the time of the
collision.” (ECF No. 37 at 5). Moreover, Prince argues
that the allegations in the state complaint were supported by
case law, the nature of the business, and a potential
was informed that Prince represented Pretner, that there were
allegations that there may be coverage under Century's
garage policy, and was provided a copy of the complaint. (ECF
Nos. 1 at 8, 37 at 5). Century's response was merely to
provide Prince with a copy of the garage policy. (ECF No. 37
at 6). Century elected to neither indemnify nor defend
Vasquez or Blue Streak, believing that coverage did not exist
under its policy and “that Progressive was defending
the action.” (ECF No. 1 at 8); see also (ECF
No. 37 at 6).
were entered against Vasquez and Blue Streak on June 27,
2011. (ECF Nos. 1 at 8, 37 at 6). Prince sent copies of the
defaults to Century. (ECF No. 37 at 6). Century replied that
it had “no coverage for this matter” and that
Progressive was handling the case. Id.
Progressive and Prince negotiated a settlement agreement, and
Progressive retained Ranalli to “represent Vasquez and
Blue Streak in connection with the covenant and settlement
negotiations.” Id. at 7. “Progressive
informed [d]efendant Ranalli that Prince ‘has agreed to
give us a [c]ovenant [n]ot to [e]xecute in exchange for the
payment of our policy limit' and instructed [d]efendant
Ranalli to work with Prince to draft a settlement
agreement.” (ECF No. 1 at 9).
Progressive and Defendant Prince agreed to a settlement under
which Progressive would pay its $100, 000 policy limit,
Pretner and his co-legal guardians would obtain an assignment
by Blue Streak and Vasquez of their rights to proceed against
Plaintiff Century Surety under the Garage Policy, and
Defendant Prince would proceed to obtain a default judgment
against Vasquez and Blue Streak. The agreement also provided
that Pretner and his co-legal guardians would provide a
covenant not to execute on the resulting [state court]
Id. Vasquez was allegedly “reluctant to
sign” the settlement agreement “because he did
not believe Century Surety had any responsibility for the
accident, ” and executed the agreement only due to
“pressure from Defendant Ranalli.” Id.
February 15, 2012, Prince filed an [a]pplication for [e]ntry
of [d]efault [j]udgment requesting judicial determination of
damages” and, after a hearing, a default judgment in
the amount of $18, 050, 185.45 was entered in plaintiffs'
favor. (ECF No. 37 at 7); see also (ECF No. 38-16).
Subsequently, Prince, as a result of the assignment of rights
and the covenant not to execute, filed Andrew v. Century
Sur. Co. in state court, and Century removed the case to
federal court. See No. 2:12-CV-00978-APG-PAL, 2014
WL 1764740 (D. Nev. Apr. 29, 2014); (ECF No. 26 at 3).
Prince, on behalf of his client, sought to collect
“damages related to the default judgment and
Century's bad faith.” (ECF No. 37 at 7-8); see
also (ECF No. 1 at 11).
filed an answer in the Andrew case on June 15, 2012,
arguing “[p]laintiffs' alleged right to seek
damages against Century was obtained through fraud,
misrepresentation, and/or collusion.” (ECF No. 37 at
7). Century first tried, in October 2012, to intervene in the
state court action, but its motion to intervene was denied in
its entirety. Id. at 7-8. Century never filed any
counterclaims in the Andrew case and has been denied
the opportunity to reopen discovery to investigate its fraud
and collusion defense “because Century had
‘raised that issue from the outset.'”
Id. at 8.
December 2, 2016, defendant Prince filed a motion for leave
to file excess pages related to his special motion to
dismiss. (ECF No. 16). On December 5, 2016, Prince filed his
special motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 17). Also on December 5,
2016, defendant Esparza filed a motion to dismiss. (ECF No.
18). On December 12, 2016, defendant Ranalli filed a motion
to dismiss. (ECF No. 26).
December 13, 2016, Magistrate Judge Leen denied Prince's
motion for leave to file excess pages. (ECF No. 32). On
December 16, 2016, Prince filed a renewed special motion to
dismiss which comported with the requirements of LR 7-4. (ECF
No. 37). On July 13, 2017, this court granted defendant's
special motion to dismiss, thereby dismissing plaintiff's
claims against defendants. (ECF No. 75). In its order, this court
held that Nevada's anti-SLAPP statute precluded plaintiff
from bringing its RICO and civil conspiracy claims against
Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2) allows a party to file a
motion for attorney's fees if it: (1) is filed within 14
days after judgment is entered; (2) identifies the legal
basis for the award; and (3) indicates the amount requested
or an estimate thereof. Moreover, “[a] federal court
sitting in diversity applies the law of the forum state
regarding an award of attorneys' fees.” Kona
Enterprises, Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 883
(9th Cir. 2000). A Nevada trial court “may not award
attorney fees absent authority under a statute, rule, or
contract.” Albios v. Horizon Communities,
Inc., 132 P.3d 1022, 1028 (Nev. 2006).
Brunzell, the Nevada Supreme Court articulated four
factors for a court to apply when assessing requests for
(1) the qualities of the advocate: his ability, his training,
education, experience, professional standing and skill; (2)
the character of the work to be done: its difficulty, its
intricacy, its importance, time and skill required, the
responsibility imposed and the prominence and character of
the parties where they affect the importance of the
litigation; (3) the work actually performed by the lawyer:
the skill, time and attention given to the work; (4) the
result: whether the attorney was successful and what benefits
455 P.2d at 33. The trial court may exercise its discretion
when determining the value of legal services in a case.
Id. at 33-34.
a trial court applying Nevada law must utilize
Brunzell to assess the merits of a request for
attorney's fees, yet that court is not required to make
findings on each factor. Logan v. Abe, 350 P.3d
1139, 1143 (Nev. 2015). “Instead, the district court
need only demonstrate that it considered the required
factors, and the award must be supported by substantial
evidence.” Id. (citing Uniroyal Goodrich
Tire Co. v. Mercer, 890 P.2d 785, 789 (Nev. 1995),
superseded by statute on other grounds as discussed in
RTTC Commc'ns, LLC v. Saratoga Flier, Inc., 110 P.3d
24, 29 n.20 (Nev. 2005)). . . .
anti-SLAPP statute provides that courts shall award
reasonable attorney's fees and costs to parties against
whom a SLAPP complaint was filed and dismissed. Nev. Rev.
Stat. § 41.670(1)(a). Courts may also award up to $10,
000 in statutory damages to the party against whom a SLAPP
complaint was filed and dismissed. Nev. Rev. Stat. §
Defendant Ranalli's motion for ...