Nippy, Inc. v. Pro Rok, Inc.

Full title: NIPPY, INC., Plaintiff, v. PRO ROK, INC., et al., Defendants

Court: United States District Court, D. Puerto Rico

Date published: Jun 28, 1996

Facts

In this case, Defendants are seeking attorney’s fees as a condition to dismissal. Generally, a plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal with prejudice does not entitle a defendant to attorney’s fees. Colombrito v. Kelly, 764 F.2d 122, 133-34 (2nd Cir. 1985); Cauley v. Wilson, 754 F.2d 769, 772 (7th Cir. 1985); Smoot v. Fox, 353 F.2d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 1965); Esquivel v. Arau, 913 F. Supp. 1382, 1388 (C.D.Cal. 1996). A court may award, attorney’s fees, however, in exceptional circumstances. Smoot, 353 F.2d at 833Murdock v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 154 F.R.D. 271, 273 (M.D.Fla. 1994). Additionally, a court may award attorney’s fees when a party acts in bad faith, wantonly, vexatiously, or for an oppressive reason. Schwarz, 767 F.2d at 132.

In considering Defendants’ interests in this case, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal saves Defendants the costs of going to trial. Moreover, because the dismissal is with prejudice, Defendants will not be faced with the prospect of defending themselves against Plaintiffs claims a second time. Thus, the dismissal with prejudice gives Defendants exactly what they would have received had they succeeded at a trial. Defendants argue that Plaintiff is dismissing this case to avoid paying Defendants’ legal fees. However, the prevailing party does not normally recover its attorney’s fees. Id. Thus, even if this case had gone to trial and the Defendant had succeeded, there is no guarantee that the Defendants would have been entitled to attorney’s fees. Moreover, the record does not indicate that Plaintiff has acted in bad faith, wantonly, vexatiously, or for an oppressive reason. Thus, the award of attorney’s fees to Defendants is not warranted in this case.

Issue

Decision

In conclusion, when a plaintiff moves for voluntary dismissal with prejudice, courts may only award attorney’s fees to the defendant or sanction the plaintiff in egregious cases. This is not such a case. The facts of this case do justify, however, the imposition of costs. Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiff’s motion for voluntary dismissal (docket no. 146) and denies Defendants’ requests for sanctions and attorney’s fees (docket no. 150). Additionally, the Court awards Defendants their costs reasonably incurred in the defense of this case.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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