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In the Matter of Luz Solla v. Berlin, 24

In this case, petitioner commenced an article 78 proceeding seeking to compel the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) to comply with, and The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) to enforce, the OTDA's decision to restore petitioner's lost benefits retroactively. Petitioner thereafter sought attorneys' fees from the State under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA, CPLR article 86). Petitioner contends that she should be deemed a "prevailing party" within the meaning of CPLR 8601 and 8602(f) and is therefore entitled to attorneys' fees, because her lawsuit was a catalyst for the relief she sought, namely HRA's compliance. The judgment of the Appellate Division granting petitioner's application for attorneys' fees on catalyst theory grounds is reversed, where: 1) a fee claimant recovers attorneys' fees only if his or her lawsuit prompted a change in position by the party from which claimant seeks reimbursement; 2) here, petitioner seeks attorneys' fees from the State, but the State has consistently sided with petitioner regarding HRA's reduction of her shelter allowance and has not changed its position; and 3) petitioner therefore cannot recover attorneys' fees under article 86 even if the catalyst theory were New York law.

Appellate Information

  • Decided 02/19/2015
  • Published 02/19/2015

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  • Court of Appeals of New York

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