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Availability of attorneys' fees to the prevailing party in an arbitration - What are your thoughts?

On July 3rd, the Appellate Division, First Department of New York issued a decision that analyzes the availability of attorneys' fees to the prevailing party in an arbitration. See the following LINK.

What is your view on the discussion of arbitration attorneys' fees laid out in the Appellate Division, First Department's recent decision in Steyn v. CRTV, LLC?

Please provide your thoughts/comments below.

Comments (8)


When the agreement calls for fees to the prevailing party I have awarded them carefully with a close eye on hours and rates and staffing. In a simple one day case it’s unlikely four lawyers are needed to work up the case for example.


This case confirms my understanding that when both sides request an award of attorneys' fees an arbitrator may make such an award to the prevailing party.. However, as a matter of practice I do not include such relief if the prevailing party has failed to submit evidence establishing how such an award may be calculated or has requested an opportunity to submit such proof.

Paul Peter Nicolai:

The court got it right.

A request for attorneys' fees must be well-documented and reasonable. However, whenever authorized by statute, contract, or AAA rule, they should be awarded without hesitation because the possibility of such an award is an important deterrent to litigation mischief.

Joseph A. Catania Jr.:

I believe good practice is to address early, after initial claim/answer/counter claim on first pre arb call. Many times one or more of parties are unaware of the law in this respect and it is fairer to alert all to the potential claim.
Big incentive for mediation too.

I agree with the above comment "the Court got it right" (in my opinion with respect to BOTH issues appealed.).

However, the correct answer may vary depending upon the State law governing the issue and/or the language of the contractual arbitration clause!

Michael Orfield:

My situations have always been fairly clear in that I am dealing with an agreement to arbitrate which spells out that the prevailing party is awarded attorney fees.
What I am not clear on is the statement that if both sides request attorney fees in their application to arbitrate, that attorney fees are then allowed. Is that correct? What if both sides have boilerplate request language, but there is no provision in the agreement to arbitrate regarding attorney fees? Is the 3rd situation in play because both sides have requested such?

Gerard F. Doyle:

I concur with the result. I have awarded substantial attorneys fees when the parties, by mutually requesting them in pleadings, have indicated, not only that they agree to award of fees, but in fact want the arbitrator to make such an award. In one case, the unsuccessful party did not reiterate its desire for award of fees in its final briefing, and sought to vacate the portion of the final award that included attorneys fees for the prevailing party. The court denied the objection, noting the arbitrator's comment that a party could initially request an award of fees in pleadings, only to back off later if it perceived that its case were not going well. This could be unfair to a prevailing party.

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