If I am sued and I win, does the losing party have to reimburse me for my court costs and attorney fees?

UPDATED: Jul 22, 2023Fact Checked

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Jeffrey Johnson

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Mary Martin

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Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

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UPDATED: Jul 22, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 22, 2023Fact Checked

Under common law court systems like the ones that exist in England and the United States, there are two rules that determine who pays court costs and attorney’s fees. Under the English rule, followed in England and Wales, the loser pays these fees and costs. Believing that “costs follow the event”, a winning party is entitled to an order that will allow the recovery of reasonable costs expended during the course of the litigation. These costs can include witness fees, attorney fees and professional fees for non-witnesses.

A different rule is followed in the United States, however. Under the “American Rule”, each party to a lawsuit pays his own costs, irrespective of who won or lost. This rule allows individuals to pursue litigation without fear that costs will be excessive. There are exceptions, however, where costs are allocated to the losing side under certain circumstances. The exceptions vary by state and also by the type of case.

On example of an exception is in certain contract cases where the parties to the contract have agreed beforehand who will pay court costs and fees when a suit is filed over disputed provisions. State and federal statutes can also dictate who will have to pay court costs in a given situation. A Wisconsin law, for example, requires the loser to pay attorney fees where an appeal was filed solely to delay proceedings. Judges can order the losing side to pay costs when it is “equitable” or fair for them to do so. In certain cases, a judge can order the loser to pay costs when the underlying lawsuit filed was frivolous or without grounds and the defendant wins.

If you have filed a lawsuit or are thinking of doing so and are worried about paying costs and attorney’s fees, you should consult a lawyer and learn more about the specific law in your area with respect to these items.

Case Studies: Reimbursement of Court Costs and Attorney Fees

Case Study 1: Johnson vs. Smith

Mr. Johnson filed a lawsuit against Mr. Smith for breach of contract. After a lengthy trial, the court ruled in favor of Mr. Johnson, finding Mr. Smith liable for the breach. As per the state statute, the court ordered Mr. Smith to reimburse Mr. Johnson for his court costs and attorney fees. This case demonstrates how state statutes can dictate the allocation of costs and fees in specific situations.

Case Study 2: Williams vs. Thompson

Ms. Williams filed a personal injury lawsuit against Mr. Thompson, alleging negligence. The court dismissed the lawsuit, finding it frivolous and without grounds. Pursuant to the court’s discretion, it ordered Ms. Williams to pay Mr. Thompson’s court costs and attorney fees. This highlights how a judge can impose costs on the losing party when the underlying lawsuit is deemed frivolous.

Case Study 3: Brown vs. Green

In a contract dispute between Mr. Brown and Mr. Green, the parties had a provision in their contract that determined the allocation of court costs and attorney fees in the event of a lawsuit. Mr. Brown filed a lawsuit against Mr. Green, and the court found in favor of Mr. Brown. Based on their contractual agreement, the court ordered Mr. Green to reimburse Mr. Brown for his costs and fees. This case exemplifies how pre-agreed provisions in contracts can govern the responsibility for court costs and attorney fees.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

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