The opinion of the court was delivered by: William C. Conner, Senior District Judge.
On May 26 and June 1, 1998, this Court conducted a bench trial
on the issue of damages in this civil rights action under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendant conceded liability. On July 17, 1998,
this Court issued an Opinion and Order finding that plaintiff
Boris Raishevich ("Raishevich") was entitled to receive $24,000
in compensatory damages for defendant's destruction of certain
photographic transparencies. See Raishevich v. Foster,
9 F. Supp.2d 415 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). Judgment was entered in the amount
of $24,000 in favor of Raishevich on August 3, 1998.
Defendant Charles Foster ("Foster") moved this Court on August
10, 1998, pursuant to Rules 52(b) and 59(e) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure, for an order amending the findings of fact
and Judgment to reduce the amount of damages awarded to
Raishevich. Plaintiff filed a cross-motion to amend the findings
of fact and Judgment to increase the damage award. By Opinion and
Order dated December 4, 1998, this Court granted defendant's
motion and decreased the compensatory damages awarded to $12,000.
In that opinion, this Court reserved decision on plaintiff's
earlier motion for attorney's fees pending the Second Circuit's
determination upon en banc rehearing of Quaratino v. Tiffany &
Co., 129 F.3d 702 (2d Cir. 1997). An Amended Judgment was
entered on December 17, 1998.
On January 18, 1999, Raishevich filed Notice of Appeal from
this Court's Order dated January 13, 1999. On February 24, 1999,
the appeal was withdrawn without prejudice to reinstatement after
this Court decides the pending issue of attorney fees.
Accordingly, currently before the Court is plaintiff's motion for
The facts in this case are set forth in full in Raishevich v.
Foster. Familiarity with that opinion is presumed.
The Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976 authorizes
the district courts to award a reasonable attorney's fee to
prevailing parties in civil rights litigation. See
42 U.S.C. § 1988. A prevailing plaintiff should recover an attorney's fee
"unless special circumstances render such an award unjust."
S.Rep. No. 94-1011, at 4 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N.
5912. In order to determine whether to award attorney's fees to
the plaintiff in this case, this Court must consider (1) whether
plaintiff was a "prevailing party" and (2) whether special
circumstances exist that would render the award unjust.
To qualify as a prevailing party, "a civil rights plaintiff
must obtain at least some relief on the merits of his claim."
Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 111, 113 S.Ct. 566, 121 L.Ed.2d
494 (1992). A plaintiff does not have to obtain an enforceable
judgment on the merits of the case, but may obtain relief through
a settlement. See id. If the settlement directly benefits the
plaintiff at the time of the settlement, it can be said to
"affect the behavior of the defendant toward the plaintiff."
Id. (quoting Rhodes v. Stewart, 488 U.S. 1, 4, 109 S.Ct. 202,
102 L.Ed.2d 1 (1988)).
In this case, plaintiff did not obtain the Court's
determination on the merits of the case because defendant
conceded liability. The trial determined damages only. The
settlement did directly benefit plaintiff because it entitled
plaintiff to some amount of damages. Defendant argues that his
admission of liability was made as an expedient means of
resolving plaintiff's damages claim. In Texas State Teachers
Ass'n v. Garland Indep. Sch. Dist., the court cited the
settlement of nuisance claims as a type of case in which success
does not render the plaintiff a prevailing party. 489 U.S. 782,
792, 109 S.Ct. 1486, 103 L.Ed.2d 866 (1989). However, there is
little evidence that plaintiff's case was merely a nuisance
claim, particularly in light of defendant's concession of
A settling plaintiff may be entitled to an award of attorney's
fees as a prevailing party. The court should compare the relief
sought by the plaintiff with the relief obtained as a result of
the suit. See Lyte v. Sara Lee Corp., 950 F.2d 101, 104 (2d
Cir. 1991). In Lyte, the plaintiff sought monetary relief and
received $9,500 as the result of a settlement. Id. Because the
relief obtained was "of the same general type" as the relief
sought, the plaintiff was a prevailing party. See id. (quoting
Koster v. Perales, 903 F.2d 131, 134 (2d Cir. 1990)). Here, as
in Lyte, plaintiff sought monetary compensation and he received
monetary compensation. The relief obtained through the settlement
and trial on damages was "of the same general type" as the relief
sought in plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff should be considered a