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Aviation Finance Group, LLC v. DUC Housing Partners

September 8, 2010

AVIATION FINANCE GROUP, LLC, AS ADMINISTRATION AGENT FOR AVIATION SECURITIZATION, LLC AND WELLS FARGO BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION (FORMERLY ) KNOWN AS WELLS FARGO BANK MINNESOTA, N.A. AND NORTHWEST BANK MINNESOTA, N.A. AS INDENTURE TRUSTEE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DUC HOUSING PARTNERS, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION; AND DANIEL A. DUC, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Larry M. Boyle United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ON ATTORNEY FEES

Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Allowance of Attorney Fees (Docket No. 62). In the interest of avoiding further delay and because the Court finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by further oral argument, the Court will resolve this motion without an additional hearing. Therefore, having carefully reviewed the record, and being otherwise fully advised, the Court enters the following Order granting Plaintiff's request.

BACKGROUND

This is a collection action originally filed in state court and removed to this Court on October 24, 2008. Plaintiff Aviation Finance Group, LLC ("AFG") financed the purchase of a commercial aircraft by Defendant Duc Housing Partners, Inc. ("Duc Housing"). The $4,520,000 loan was secured by the aircraft as collateral and personally guaranteed by Defendant Daniel Duc ("Duc"). The loan went into default in October 2008. AFG brought this action to recover the amount owed under the Note and personal guaranty. In its Complaint, Plaintiff alleged the principal, penalties and interest amount calculated as outstanding through October 31, 2008,would be $3,068,042.22, with interest, attorneys fees and other charges continuing to accrue. (Docket No. 2-1, ¶ 24).

After removal, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction, Improper Venue, or in the Alternative for Change of Venue. (Docket No. 5). Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand back to state court. (Docket No. 8). Both motions were denied. (Docket No. 22).

Defendants answered the Complaint on August 12, 2009 (Docket No. 26), nearly a year after the action was filed. Defendants raised the Plaintiff's breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, estoppel, quasi estoppel, Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Uniform Commercial Code, impairment of collateral, unconscionable conduct, waiver and Plaintiff's failure to mitigate its damages as affirmative defenses. (Docket No. 26).

In June 2009, AFG sold the repossessed aircraft for $2 million. Accordingly, as of August 31, 2009, AFG claimed Defendants owed the deficiency of $1,425,031.47, with interest and legal expenses continuing to accrue. (See Docket No. 28-4, ¶ 18).

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on both of its claims against the Defendants on September 2, 2009. (Docket No. 28). Defendants filed an opposition to the motion for summary judgment and a motion to continue the hearing to allow for further discovery. The latter was subsequently withdrawn. (Docket No. 43).

In response to Plaintiff's motion, Defendants set forth no facts contesting liability on either the Note or the personal guaranty. Defendants contested, however, that the sale of the aircraft had been conducted in a reasonable commercial manner, and therefore, the amount of the deficiency owed. Defendants submitted their expert appraiser's opinion that the fair market value of the aircraft was $2,582,545, which was $582,545 more than the sale price realized.

Before the Court ruled on the Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff submitted a Notice of Stipulation to Facts for Purposes of Summary Judgment Only wherein Plaintiff agreed that the fair market value of the aircraft was the Defendants' expert's opinion of value. (Docket No. 47). Plaintiff desired to avoid the expense of further litigation and to expedite the resolution of the litigation by foregoing its claim to the disputed $582,545 difference. Plaintiff also filed an updated schedule of expenses incurred. (Docket No. 47-1 & 47 -2).

In response to Plaintiff's notice, Defendants contended that the record nonetheless contained evidence that the aircraft could have sold for even more than Defendants' own appraiser valued the fair market value of the aircraft, and that questions of fact still remained regarding the commercial reasonableness of the sale of the aircraft that prevented the Court from granting judgment in Plaintiff's favor. (Docket No. 49, p. 2). Defendants also argued that "Defendants' affirmative defenses of breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, impairment of collateral and unconscionable conduct remain viable defenses which may justify denied of a deficiency in its entirety." (Docket No. 49, p. 3).

The Court ruled on Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on April 20, 2010 (Docket No. 52) and rejected both of Defendants' arguments. The Court concluded that there were no disputed facts as to Defendants' liability, and that the undisputed fair market value of the aircraft was the $2,582,545 (Docket No. 52, p. 21). The Court further concluded, however, that questions of fact remained as to damages related to certain expenses incurred regarding the sale of the aircraft, and the reasonableness of the attorney fees claimed. Id. The Court granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in part and denied it in part accordingly. (Docket No. 52).

Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on Damages electing to forgo the disputed damage claim, and agreeing to file a post judgment attorney fees application establishing the reasonableness of the attorney fees as Defendants had proposed, in order to expedite resolution of the litigation. (Docket No. 56). Accordingly, Plaintiff further reduced their deficiency claim by another approximately $30,000.*fn1 Defendants raised further objections to the expenses claimed but presented no new evidence.

The Court granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on damages, and entered judgment in the amount of $820,921.42 as the outstanding total deficiency plus interest. (Docket No. 9). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed the currently pending Motion for Attorney Fees. (Docket No. 62). Defendants object primarily on the ...


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