may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Steve Parker Supply, Inc.,
a Louisiana corporation,
d/b/a Parker Supply Co.,
a Delaware corporation,
Filed September 15, 1998
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 95-18496
Richard L. Gill, Thomas B. Hatch, Frederick R. Juckniess, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P., 800 LaSalle Ave., 2800 LaSalle Plaza, Minneapolis, MN 55402-2015 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
Ecolab, Inc., a manufacturer of institutional and industrial janitorial products, appeals from a judgment awarding one of its former distributors, respondent Parker Supply Co., $29,000 in damages for breach of contract. Ecolab challenges the trial court's denial of its motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and a new trial. Parker Supply has filed a notice of review, challenging the trial court's denial of its request for costs and disbursements.
Because the jury could reasonably find that Ecolab had breached its obligation to make a good faith effort to develop "Micro-Pro" technology and to provide Parker Supply with access to that technology, we affirm the jury's verdict. Because Parker Supply prevailed on one of its claims, we conclude it is a prevailing party under Minn. Stat. § 549.04 (1996). We therefore reverse the trial court's denial of Parker Supply's motion for costs and disbursements.
Over the next two years, Ecolab proceeded with further testing and development of Micro-Pro, but continued to have quality control and other problems. An Ecolab senior scientist estimated that Ecolab had spent over $1,000,000 between 1985 and 1990 on the project. Although the scientist described Micro-Pro as a failure, he acknowledged that a Micro-Pro system had been installed and still was partially in use at an Ecolab division in North Dakota.
In 1990, Ecolab terminated the Micro-Pro project after interviewing three large distributors who indicated that they were not interested in Micro-Pro because it would not significantly lower their costs. Ecolab claimed that Micro-Pro's unresolved technical problems also were a factor in the decision.
A trial court's denial of a motion for JNOV must be affirmed if "there is any competent evidence reasonably tending to sustain the verdict." Rettman v. City of Litchfield, 354 N.W.2d 426, 429 (Minn. 1984). While some evidence in this case suggested that Ecolab continued to encounter quality control and other problems with Micro-Pro, other evidence established that Micro-Pro was nonetheless viable and that Ecolab terminated the project for financial or commercial reasons. Because competent evidence reasonably supports the jury's finding that Ecolab failed to substantially perform its obligation to provide "access to Micro-Pro technology," as promised in the 1988 agreement, the trial court did not err in denying Ecolab's motion for JNOV.
In determining who qualifies as the prevailing party in an action, "the general result should be considered, and inquiry made as to who has, in the view of the law, succeeded in the action." The prevailing party in any action is one in whose favor the decision or verdict is rendered and judgment entered.
Borchert v. Maloney, 581 N.W.2d 838, 840 (Minn. 1998) (footnotes omitted).
Parker Supply argues that its recovery of less than it sought does not mean that it did not prevail by recovering $29,000 from Ecolab. See In re Rosenfelt's Will, 185 Minn. 425, 434, 241 N.W. 573, 576 (1932) (affirming trial court's taxation of costs and disbursements to trust beneficiaries as prevailing parties even though "they did not obtain all they sought"); Kusniryk v. Arrowhead Reg. Corrections Bd., 413 N.W.2d 182, 184 (Minn. App. 1987) (rejecting argument that party who recovers less than initial demand is not prevailing party). Although a trial court may decline to find a plaintiff a prevailing party if no damages are awarded, the jury awarded Parker Supply $29,000 in damages. See Bachovchin v. Stingley, 504 N.W.2d 288, 290-91 (Minn. App. 1993) (trial court did not abuse discretion in determining automobile buyer not prevailing party, even though jury found fraud, when jury also found buyer sustained no actual damages). Because Parker Supply was successful on one of its claims, the trial court abused its discretion by determining Parker Supply was not a prevailing party. Cf. Shrader v. OMC Aluminum Boat Group, Inc., 128 F.3d 1218 (8th Cir. 1997) (in request for attorney fees in 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, court must consider whether plaintiff has received "actual relief on the merits" of claim and whether that relief materially modifies defendant's behavior to plaintiff's direct benefit); Casey v. City of Cabool, Mo., 12 F.3d 799, 804 (8th Cir. 1993) ("a prevailing party is one that obtains at least some relief on the merits of his claim").
We therefore reverse the denial of costs and disbursements, but remand the issue to determine the appropriate amount, consistent with the extent of Parker Supply's success.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
 Parker Supply originally joined several other distributors to sue Ecolab. These distributors obtained a temporary injunction requiring the parties to continue their distributor relationship. The trial court severed the various actions, and Parker Supply's action was tried first. After the jury returned its verdict in this case, the trial court dissolved the injunction with respect to Parker Supply. The trial court denied Ecolab's motion to dissolve the injunction as to the remaining distributors, but on appeal this court reversed that decision. Upper Midwest Sales Co. v. Ecolab, Inc., 577 N.W.2d 236 (Minn. App. 1998). Actions by the remaining distributors are pending this appeal.
 The parties' characterizations of Ecolab's obligations under the contract appear to have shifted and evolved throughout the proceedings in this case. On appeal from denial of a motion for JNOV, we must affirm the jury's verdict if supported by any plausible theory consistent with the evidence. See Rettman v. City of Litchfield, 354 N.W.2d 426, 429 (Minn. 1984).
 On the franchise act claim, which the jury rejected, Parker Supply sought $1.2 million in damages; on the breach of contract claim, it sought $479,000 in damages.