Who pays the defendant’s legal costs in a civil suit if the plaintiff loses?

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Who pays the defendant’s legal costs in a civil suit if the plaintiff loses?

I see these ads all the time, where law firms state that they will represent you in a case “free of charge”. Their fees will only arise if you win the case, fees will then be deducted from amounts awarded to you. What I am totally unsure of is in these civil cases, what happens when you lose the case? Are you not responsible for paying sums awarded to the defendant and all his/her legal cost?

Asked on June 21, 2011 under Business Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Usually, the plaintiff does *not* have to pay the defendant's legal fees; whether you agree with it, under the "American Rule," the winning defendant *usually* cannot recover legal fees from the person who sued him or her. (Under the "English Rule," a winning defendant in Britain would have a good chance to recover these fees.)

There are some exceptions, but they mostly happen if the lawsuit is deemed to be "frivolous"--to not have a good basis in either law and/or fact. For example, from my own experience: person A sued person B claiming that B had injured them with B's car. It turned out A was simply lying and B had never hit him--it was a near-miss. B was able to recover legal fees because there was no grounds for the suit.


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