Contract produces fees only when one party or the other wins a judgment, absent precise definition of “prevailing party” in contract

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Shepard, Chief Justice.
The parties in this case entered into a construction contract providing that in the event of a legal dispute, the prevailing party would be entitled to reasonable costs and expenses, including attorney fees. The term “prevailing party” was not defined. We hold that in the absence of further definition, such a contract produces fees only when one party or the other wins a judgment.
Key Analysis (slip op. at 4):  It seems unlikely that parties entering into a contract would intend for a settlement reached during mediation to result in either party obtaining prevailing party status . . . Aside from the dictionary and case law on which we rely, it seems apparent that the bright line approach these represent is the best for most litigants. The worst approach would be one in which “prevailing party” is treated with ambiguity or discretion, provoking litigation about who won the litigation, in addition to litigation over the appropriate amount of fees.
Dickson, Sullivan, Boehm, and Rucker, JJ., concur.

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