In Medina v. South Coast Car Company, 2017 WL 4128076, at *8 (Cal.App. 4 Dist., 2017), the Court of Appeal held that a settlement agreement entitling Plaintiff to attorneys’ fees was not capped by the FTC Holder Rule.
In light of the Settlement and section 5, which, the parties agreed, made Medina the “prevailing party,” it is clear from the plain language of Civil Code section 2983.4 that SCCC did not comply with the requirements of this statute, including the requirement the “allegation [that defendant tendered the ‘full amount’ owed plaintiff was] found true” by a court or trier of fact. (See Tun v. Wells Fargo Dealer Services, Inc. (2016) 5 Cal.App.5th 309, 326-327 [noting a tender under this statute “is an estimate of the ‘full amount’ of what a tendering defendant believes a plaintiff may be ‘entitled’ to in any ‘action on a contract or purchase order’ subject to the ASFA, which, if later ‘found to be true by the court [or trier of fact]’ [citation], will make that tendering defendant the prevailing party, despite the plaintiff’s recovery of the amount tendered (or any lesser amount) against that defendant”].) We also reject defendants’ contention that Veros cannot be liable for the attorney fees, costs and prejudgment interest awarded Medina as a result of it being merely the “holder” of the RISC at issue in this case. As relevant to this issue, the RISC provided in all capital letters: “Notice: Any holder [i.e., Veros] of this consumer credit contract is subject to all claims and defenses which the debtor [i.e., Medina] could assert against the seller of goods or services [i.e., SCCC] obtained pursuant hereto or with the proceeds hereof. Recovery hereunder by the debtor shall not exceed amounts paid by the debtor hereunder.” The record shows Veros, like codefendant SCCC, executed the Settlement. As a result and, based on the plain language of section 5 providing defendants would not dispute Medina’s “entitlement” to attorney fees and costs as a result of their concession in the Settlement he was the “prevailing party on all causes of action,” we reject Veros’s contention it could not be liable for such fees and costs as a result of it being the mere “holder” of the RISC. [FN 1: In any event, it would appear from the plain language of Civil Code section 2983.4, which provides for an award of reasonable attorney fees and costs to a prevailing party “regardless of whether the action is instituted by the seller, holder or buyer,” that an award of such fees and costs against a holder (i.e., Veros) is not limited to the amounts paid by the debtor (i.e., Medina) under a retail installment sales contract]. Because defendants’ myriad challenges on appeal to the award of attorney fees, costs and prejudgment interest are limited to the issue of entitlement, as opposed to the their amount, we have no reason to review the reasonableness of such an award. Nonetheless, based on our own independent review of the record, it is clear the court properly exercised its discretion when it made this award. (See Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1133, 1138 [noting a trial court has broad discretion in deciding attorney fee issues]; Cates v. Chiang (2013) 213 Cal.App.4th 791, 820–821 [noting an attorney fee award will not be reversed unless a reviewing court is “convinced” the ruling is “clearly wrong” and further noting the general rule that “[t]rial judges are … in the best position to assess the value of the professional services provided in their courts”].) Finally, as to defendants’ contention this case presents a matter of “first impression” regarding the “holder rule,” its “continued misapplication … and the resulting detrimental impact on the financial services industry and the consumers,” even without the Settlement—including section 5 therein—we conclude this contention necessarily raises policy concerns that are more properly directed at, and considered by, the Legislature.