WHEN CAN YOU RECOVER LEGAL FEES IN A NEW YORK LAWSUIT?

              Since a plaintiff may hire an attorney do to someone else’s wrongdoing, or a defendant may hire an attorney based upon allegations with little veracity, a common question is whether the prevailing party is entitled to counsel fees from the other party.  New York follows the American Rule, which provides that absent agreement, statute, or court rule, each party pays his or her own attorney fees, regardless of who prevails at trial.

            In some contracts, including leases, a clause may be added whereby should litigation arise, the losing party will pay the counsel fees of the prevailing party.  Similarly, in a lease, a clause may be present whereby the prevailing party is awarded attorneys fees, or in some instances, a landlord will be entitled to attorneys fees for any legal action taken against the tenant.

            With respect to statutes, some provide that the prevailing party may receive an award of attorneys fees, such as CPLR §909, which allows for the recovery of attorneys fees in a class action lawsuit where the class prevails.  In an effort to prevent frivolous actions, CPLR §8303-a(a) and 22 NYCRR 130-1.1(a) allows for the recovery of counsel fees to a prevailing party where the other party asserted frivolous claims or counterclaims.  In addition, in matrimonial actions, Domestic Relations Law §237 provides that the monied spouse may be required to pay the counsel fees, or a portion of the counsel fees, of the non-monied spouse in order to balance the equities and prevent the monied spouse from bullying the non-monied spouse into a one-sided agreement.

Should you have further questions concerning this or other matters, please contact The Siegel Law Firm, P.C.

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