We Didn’t Do Anything Wrong, Why Should We Have To Pay Attorney Fees?
A regularly asked question is, “can we get back the attorney fees and expenses in this mess?” The answer we give is “Maybe?” Don’t you love for lawyers to dodge the question!
Sorry! Some questions just can’t be answered “yes or no.” When your 4-year-old comes running through the house and says, “Mom, can I have the box of matches?”, the answer will usually be “No!!!” But what if Dad is starting the grill and has mud on his shoes from working in the yard? Maybe in some circumstances you give matches to a 4-year-old.
Recovery of attorney fees is not always easy to answer. Statutes usually determine if fees can be awarded to the prevailing party. Generally, fees are not available in negligence actions in Oklahoma unless the lawsuit is over property damage. Breach of contract cases are more likely to result in the winning side recovering their fees and costs. Most lawsuits involving coverage under insurance policies can end up with the court ordering the losing party to pay attorney fees, but there are exceptions. For example, cases involving UM or uninsured motorist coverage, are not attorney fee matters.
What’s really fun is trying to figure out who is the winning party. Let’s say Mr. Brown sues Ms. Jones for breach of contract for a poor job in remodeling her kitchen. As part of Ms. Jones’ defense, she files a counterclaim for negligence when Brown backed into her car leaving the job in a big hurry. Brown receives judgment for the unpaid remodeling work and Jones gets an award for the cost to repair her car. Who won? Who should pay? Who should not pay? Should both pay?
Always be careful when involved in litigation over small monetary disputes. The attorney fees can quickly become “the tail wagging the dog!” The question changes from the amount in dispute, to who has to pay the other side’s lawyer!
We always look at new files to evaluate if an “offer to confess judgment” is appropriate. It is a document or pleading sent to the other side offering to pay. If the person suing doesn’t recover more than the amount offered, they have to pay your attorney fees. These offers are tricky and complicated. Failure to do it right has consequences – so be careful!
Want more information on a claim you have, call us 1-866-959-3185