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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
New York State Courts by Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP
Posted: December 19, 2020

Plaintiff Prevailing Party, Entitling it to Fees, Even Though it Only Was Awarded Nominal Damages

On December 8, 2020, the First Department issued a decision in Quik Park W. 57 LLC v. Bridgewater Operating Corp., 2020 NY Slip Op. 07323, holding that plaintiffs that only were awarded nominal damages still were prevailing parties, entitling them to fees under the parties’ contract, explaining:

The trial court properly awarded attorneys’ fees to plaintiffs pursuant to the parties’ management agreement. The gravamen of the original complaint was that defendant had improperly terminated the management agreement without providing plaintiffs with sufficient notice and an opportunity to cure. On pretrial motions, Supreme Court repeatedly found that plaintiffs’ alleged breaches were curable, and this Court affirmed those findings. The trial court’s finding that defendant breached the management agreement solidified plaintiffs’ status as the prevailing party. Plaintiffs also successfully defended against the affirmative defenses. The fact that plaintiffs recovered only nominal damages does not affect their status as prevailing party.

(Internal citations omitted).

Litigating for fees can be hard–both because of the high burden you sometimes must meet to be entitled to fees and because it is important to avoid the pitfall of getting an award of fees that is less than what it cost to move for fees. And as this decision shows, it sometimes is unclear who the prevailing party is for the purposes to deciding whether the court can award fees at all. Contact Schlam Stone & Dolan partner John Lundin at jlundin@schlamstone.com if you are litigating an attorney fee award.

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