As a general rule, each party to a lawsuit is responsible for paying his or her own attorney fees. However, many statutes provide for the award of attorney fees to the prevailing party in a lawsuit. Examples range from 'Civil action[s] against a person who fraudulently deceived a senior citizen or handicapped person' (Minnesota Statute 325F.71, subd.4) to 'Wrongful disclosure of video customer records' (Minnesota Statute 325I.03). Attorney fee clauses are also common in civil rights enforcement statutes.
A judge in a civil action also has the discretion to award attorney fees where he or she sees fit. One example is awarding attorney fees to an individual collecting on delinquent spousal maintenance or child support--the reasoning being that the obligee would not have incurred the fees in retaining an attorney to collect had the obligor been in compliance with his or her support obligations.
Contractually-provided for attorney fees are another, perhaps more common, scenario. For example, in most consumer credit contracts, there will be a provision holding the consumer liable for attorney fees incurred in a collection action.
The attorneys of Drewes Law have access to post and edit the blogs. Attorney Bios.