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A Better Partnership
December 12, 2016

MSC grants MOAA on whether award of attorney fees should have been decided by trial court or jury

The Michigan Supreme Court has granted a mini-oral argument on the question of whether the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees following a postjudgment hearing rather than submitting the attorney fee issue to the jury.
In Power Play International v. Reddy, No. 154347, the plaintiffs sued to enforce a 2008 settlement agreement between the parties.  That agreement provided in part that the prevailing party in an action to enforce the agreement would be entitled to recover associated attorney fees.  The plaintiffs prevailed on summary disposition regarding defendants’ liability for breach of the settlement agreement, and the jury awarded plaintiffs damages of $3,000,000.  The trial court held an evidentiary hearing regarding the reasonableness of plaintiffs’ attorney fees, and ultimately ordered defendants to pay fees of $80,765.
The Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, reasoning that plaintiffs did not become the “prevailing party” until the jury had reached a verdict on the damages issue.  In so holding, the court distinguished a case in which the contract at issue permitted the recovery of attorney fees upon breach, unlike the settlement agreement in this case.
The Supreme Court’s grant of mini-oral argument invited amicus briefs from the Michigan Association for Justice, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel, Inc., and the Negligence Section of the State Bar of Michigan.

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