Marek v. Chesny Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari to determine resolve a dispute whether a prevailing plaintiff can recover attorney’s fees incurred after the settlement offer.

Facts of the case

Question

Whether attorney’s fees incurred by a plaintiff subsequent to an offer of settlement must be paid by the defendant when the plaintiff receives a monetary judgment, which is less than the settlement offer?

Answer

No.
Rule 68 provides that if a timely pretrial offer of settlement is not accepted and the judgment obtained by the offeree is less favorable than the settlement offer, the offeree must pay the costs incurred after the making of the offer.

Conclusion

“The Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court held that Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 did not require that a settlement offer itemize the respective amounts being tendered for settlement of the underlying substantive claim and for costs. The term “”costs”” in Rule 68 was intended to refer to all costs properly awardable under the relevant substantive statute or other authority. Thus, absent contrary congressional expressions, where the underlying statute defined “”costs”” to include attorney’s fees, such fees were to be included as costs for purposes of Rule 68. The administrator, as a prevailing party in a 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 action, was entitled to be awarded attorney’s fees as part of the costs pursuant to the Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C.S. § 1988. Because Congress expressly included attorney’s fees as “”costs”” available to a plaintiff in a 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 suit, such fees were subject to the cost-shifting provision of Fed. R. Civ. P. 68.”

  • Case Brief: 1985
  • Petitioner: Marek
  • Respondent: Chesny
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 473 US 1 (1985)
Argued: Dec 5, 1984
Decided: Jun 27, 1985