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Buckhannon Board and Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources

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CASE BRIEFS

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Civil Procedure Keyed to Yeazell

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 532 U.S. 598, 121 S. Ct. 1835, 149 L. Ed. 2d 855, 2001 U.S. 4117

Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiffs in a class action agreed to a settlement in which they received their asked for relief in exchange for waiving their right to attorney’s fees.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. In class action suits, a prevailing party is free to waive his right to attorney’s fees, so long as the waiver is negotiated for and is approved by the district judge as part of an overall settlement plan.



Facts. Plaintiffs, a class of emotionally and handicapped children sued the state of Idaho seeking injunctive relief that would improve the treatment of institutionalized class members. One week before trial, the Defendants proposed a settlement agreement offering the Plaintiffs their asked for relief, but included a provision that the Plaintiff waive any claim to attorney’s fees or costs. The Plaintiff’s attorney, Johnson, moved for attorney’s fees following the settlement anyway, which the district court denied.

Issue. Whether attorney’s fees must be assessed when the case has settled by a consent decree granting prospective relief to the plaintiff class but providing that the defendant shall not pay any part of the prevailing party’s fees or costs. Whether a district court abuses its discretion in approving a settlement that includes a complete fee waiver.

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