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Renee Vines sued his former employer, O’Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC, for violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq.), alleging causes of action for race- and age- based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

A jury found in his favor on his causes of action for retaliation and failure to prevent retaliation, but against him on his other causes of action. Although Vines asked for $253,417 in economic damages and 3 $1.3 million to $2.3 million in non-economic damages, the jury awarded him only $70,200.

Vines moved for $809,681.25 in statutory attorneys’ fees. On September 9, 2019 the trial court granted the motion, but awarded only $129,540.44 in fees, based in part on the court’s determination Vines’s unsuccessful discrimination and harassment causes of action were not closely related to or factually intertwined with his successful retaliation causes of action.

Vines appealed, and the Court of Appeal reversed. It held the trial court erred in finding that, because the facts related to Vines’s (successful) retaliation causes of action arose after he complained about the discriminatory and harassing conduct, the (unsuccessful) discrimination and harassment causes of action were not related to the (successful) retaliation causes of action. Therefore, it concluded, the trial court erred in ruling Vines was not entitled to recover any fees he incurred pursuing his discrimination and harassment causes of action. (Vines v. O’Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC (2022) 74 Cal.App.5th 174, 185 (Vines I).)

On remand the trial court on June 29, 2022 awarded Vines $518,161.77 in fees. O’Reilly paid the fee award, including post judgment interest from June 29, 2022. Vines’s attorneys, however, wanted more; specifically, they wanted interest on the attorneys’ fees award from September 9, 2019, not June 29, 2022, which amounted to an additional $138,454.44 in interest.

Rather than asking the court to enter an amended judgment that included the award of attorneys’ fees plus additional interest or seeking an order for additional interest, Vines applied for and obtained a renewal of the judgment in the amount of $138,454.44 (i.e., the additional interest). O’Reilly filed a motion to vacate the renewal of judgment, which the trial court denied.

O’Reilly appeals from the order denying its motion to vacate the renewal of judgment, challenging only the amount of interest on the award of attorneys’ fees. O’Reilly argues that, because our decision in Vines I was a reversal, not a modification, of the trial court’s September 9, 2019 order, interest on the amount of attorneys’ fees awarded should run from June 29, 2022, not September 9, 2019.

The Court of Appeal agreed with O’Reilly, reversed the order denying O’Reilly’s motion to vacate the renewed judgment, and direct the trial court to grant the motion in the published case of Vines v. O’Reilly Auto Enterprises (Vines II) – B327821 (April 2024).

The line between modification and reversal, however, like that (for example) between a mandatory and prohibitory injunction, can be a little blurry. Here, however, we can safely draw that line. Our directions in the prior appeal required the trial court to do more than perform a pure mathematical computation or add or delete a category of fees; the trial court had to exercise its discretion to determine an appropriate award of attorneys’ fees. Therefore, our prior opinion was a reversal, not a modification, which means interest runs from the second attorneys’ fees award.”