By: James C. Dalton
More often than not, the answer to the question posed above is “No”. The general rule in American courts provides that each party to a lawsuit is responsible for paying their own attorneys fees, unless one of the following exceptions applies:
A statute or rule of court authorizes the recovery of fees (for example, consumer protection and anti-discrimination laws provide for the recovery of “reasonable fees” under certain circumstances), or
A clear agreement between the parties in a document provides that the prevailing party may recover fees (for example, a contract, lease or other document that refers specifically to attorneys fees. Note, however, that general language regarding “costs” is not enough).
While the American rule can be criticized for favoring the party with “deeper pockets” and forcing some litigants to compromise otherwise valid claims in order to avoid the cost and delay of litigation, it remains the law and is a factor in every case. The potential cost of litigation, and availability of exceptions to the American rule allowing recovery of counsel fees, should be discussed with an experienced litigation attorney before a claim is filed.
Please contact James C. Dalton for further information.