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Negron v. Patriot Auto Sales, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 17, 2019

CORALYS NEGRON and FRANCISCO NEGRON, Plaintiffs,
v.
PATRIOT AUTO SALES, LLC and JASON WINER, Defendants.

          RULING ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES AND POST-JUDGMENT INTEREST

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Following judgment in their favor, plaintiffs Coralys and Francisco Negron have moved for an award of attorney’s fees in the amount of $36,792 and an order for post-judgment interest. See Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Post-judgment Interest (Doc. No. 93), at 1; Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Attorneys’ Fees and Post Judgment Interest (“Mot. for Attys’ Fees”) (Doc. No. 93-1). Defendant Jason Winer (“Winer”) opposes that Motion. See Memorandum in Opposition (“Def.’s Opp.”) (Doc. No. 96).

         For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Attorneys’ Fees and Post-Judgment Interest is GRANTED in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Coralys and Francisco Negron (collectively, “the Negrons”) initiated this action in connection with the sale of a used car in 2017. See Complaint (Doc. No. 1). To briefly summarize the facts, Coralys Negron purchased a vehicle from Winer in 2016. See Bench Trial Ruling and Renewed Motion for Judgment (“Bench Trial Ruling”) (Doc. No. 86). Although she was led to believe the cash price for the vehicle was $8,500, the purchase order and other documentation set that price at $8,995. Id. at 4 (citing Pl.’s Ex. 2). In addition, the court found that Coralys’s signatures were forged in certain places on the Purchase Order, including paragraphs providing that the vehicle was sold “as is,” with no implied warranties. Id. at 6 (citing Pl.’s Ex. 4; Pl.’s Ex. 2). Contrary to Winer’s representations, there were several problems with the vehicle, including that the oil feed line was leaking, the engine was making a knocking noise, the struts were leaking, and the air conditioner needed to be replaced. Id. at 7 (citing Pl.’s Ex. 8).

         The Negrons brought several claims against Winer, including: violations of the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”); breach of the implied warranty of merchantability under section 42a-2-314 of the Connecticut General Statutes and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (“Magnuson-Moss”), 15 U.S.C. § 2310(d); breach of express warranty; violations of Connecticut’s Retail Installment Sales Finance Act (“RISFA”); civil forgery; and violations of Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat § 42-110g(d). Id. at 8. They asserted the same causes of action-except civil forgery- against Patriot Auto Sales, which permitted Winer to operate one of its dealerships. Id. In May 2019, the court awarded a total of $7,132.89 to plaintiffs, for which Winer and Patriot Auto Sales are jointly and severally liable, for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, violation of RISFA, and violation of CUTPA. Id. at 36.

         Plaintiffs now seek attorney’s fees and post-judgment interest pursuant to CUTPA and Magnuson-Moss. See Mot. for Attys’ Fees at 2. Winer opposes that Motion, arguing that he is not liable for fees that are not related to the CUTPA claim against him. Def.’s Opp. at 3. Winer further argues that the billable rate for paralegals, as calculated by the plaintiffs, is unreasonable, id. at 5, and that the court should exclude the legal fees of Attorney Mahoney as duplicative, id. at 6.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act

         1. Work related to the CUTPA claim

         Coralys and Francisco Negron seek attorneys’ fees under Magnuson-Moss and CUTPA. Pursuant to CUTPA,

In any action brought by a person under this section, the court may award, to the plaintiff, in addition to the relief provided in this section, costs and reasonable attorneys' fees based on the work reasonably performed by an attorney and not on the amount of recovery.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 42-110g(d). Plaintiffs bear the burden of “establishing entitlement to an award and documenting the appropriate hours expended and hourly rates.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). The district court should provide a “concise but clear explanation of its reasons for the fee award.” Id.

         As Connecticut courts have explained, attorneys’ fees are “integral to effecting” the policy behind CUTPA, “namely, to encourage litigants to act as private attorneys general and to bring actions for unfair or deceptive trade practices.” Gill v. Petrazzuoli Bros., Inc., 10 Conn.App. 22, 33 (1987); see also Fabri v. United Techs. Int’l, Inc., 193 F.Supp.2d 480, 486 (D. Conn. 2002) (explaining that “the purpose of the fee-shifting ...


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