Recovering Attorneys' Fees

When I initially meet with a client who either has been sued or is contemplating filing a lawsuit against someone else, I oftentimes get asked, "Can I recover my attorneys’ fees from the other party?" The answer depends upon the types of claims that are filed.

The general rule in Florida is that each side must pay their own attorneys’ fees. However, there are several exceptions to that rule. The first important exception applies to contractual claims. If the contract at issue in the lawsuit contains a provision indicating that one of the parties is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees if he or she takes any action to enforce that contract, then the courts will enforce that contractual term. Moreover, Florida has a statute that makes such a provision reciprocal, meaning that the prevailing party on that contractual claim can recover fees from the other party even if the attorneys’ fee provision only expressly allows one of the parties to recover their fees.

The second critical exception that may allow a party to recover fees is statutory in nature. There are many Florida statutes that allow a prevailing party to recover fees in certain types of lawsuits, including but not limited to, claims involving residential lease disputes and construction liens and claims brought under the civil theft or deceptive and unfair trade practices statutes. There is also an offer of judgment statute that allows a party to make an offer in a lawsuit that, if rejected, can allow that party to later recover fees from the opposition dependent upon the ultimate outcome of the case. Finally, there is a rarely invoked statutory provision dealing with frivolous lawsuits that, upon proper notice, allows a party to recover fees from the other party and his or her attorney if the claim has absolutely no merit and/or is completely unsupported by the facts or the law.

You, as the client, should discuss these issues with your attorney at the outset of your case. Whether or not you can recover your attorneys’ fees is an important consideration in any lawsuit, and it is therefore critical that the attorney you hire is knowledgeable regarding this issue.

Call me at (941) 979-9010 for a free consultation regarding your business dispute or general civil litigation matter.

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