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PREVAILING PARTY

the party in a lawsuit who has successfully obtained a judgment in his or her own favor. Federal law allows for the awarding of attorney’s fees to the prevailing party, other than the United States, in proceedings in vindication of civil rights.

Courts have broadened the interpretation of “prevailing party” in such a context to include preliminary relief or relief obtained as the result of a consent decree, or settlement, and the party need only prevail on the merits of some of the claims. The plaintiff’s lawsuit must be found to be causally linked to the achievement of relief obtained, and the defendant must not have acted gratuitously in response to a frivolous or legally insignificant claim. Source: Barron's Dictionary of Legal Terms, Steven H. Gifis, 5th Edition; ©
"In Texas State Teachers v. Garland Independent School District, ___ U.S. ___, 109 S.Ct. 1486, 103 L.Ed.2d 866 (1989), the Supreme Court clarified the standard for determining whether a litigant may be considered a "prevailing party" deserving of a fee award. A litigant need not prevail on the central issue in the case or obtain the primary relief sought. However, the plaintiff must, "at a minimum, to be considered a prevailing party... be able to point to a resolution of the dispute which changes the legal relationship between itself and the defendant.""
"We can thus distill from the Supreme Court's prevailing party jurisprudence that there are two requirements for a party to reach prevailing party status. First, the party must be awarded some relief on the merits of its claim by the court. Buckhannon , 532 U.S. at 603, 121 S.Ct. 1835. Second, the party must be able to point to a resolution of the dispute which materially altered the legal relationship between the parties. Garland , 489 U.S. at 792–93, 109 S.Ct. 1486."
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