Recovery of Attorneys Fees Under “Tort of Another” Legal Doctrine
Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees in California Under the “Tort of Another” Legal Doctrine
Under the “American Rule” each party to a lawsuit is responsible for their own attorney’s fees and costs absent a contractual agreement or statutory exception. (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 1021). This rule can often lead to inequitable results, particularly where the cost of defending a lawsuit exceeds the damages at issue. One exception to the “American Rule” which allows a defendant to recovery their attorney’s fees is the “tort of another doctrine.”
What is the Tort of Another Doctrine?
The tort of another doctrine is an exception to the “American Rule” which allows for recovery of attorney’s fees which are incurred as a result of another party’s wrongful actions. Consider the following scenario: a real estate agent lists a property for sale. Buyer makes an offer to the agent, and the agent tells Buyer that the Seller has accepted. Several months later however, the agent tells Buyer that Seller has pulled out of the deal, resulting in Buyer filing a lawsuit against Seller and the agent. At trial the Court finds that the Seller never accepted Buyer’s offer, and the agent had lied when he had made that claim to Buyer. Under that scenario, the tort of another doctrine would allow Buyer to recover its attorney’s fees from the real estate agent for causing Buyer to incur attorney’s fees by suing the innocent Seller.
When Does the Tort of Another Doctrine Apply?
In order for the tort of another doctrine to apply, an actual tort claim must be committed by the party required to pay attorney’s fees. If there is no tort by a third party, the tort of another doctrine does not apply.
Further, the doctrine only applies where “exceptional circumstances” are present and not where attorney’s fees are incurred by a party solely in defense of their own alleged wrongdoing. Thus if a party’s own wrongful conduct is part of the reason it is forced to defend a lawsuit, the doctrine would not be applicable.
Who Can Seek Fees Through the Tort of Another Doctrine?
Both Plaintiffs and Defendants in a lawsuit can seek fees through the tort of another doctrine. The doctrine applies to any person who through the tort of another has been required to act in the protection of his interests by bringing or defending an action against a third person.
Getting Legal Help
If you are involved in a dispute wrongfully caused by a third party, it is smart to speak with a top-rated SoCal litigation attorney. Our Irvine based team of experienced business litigation attorneys and trial specialists are here to help. Contact Brown & Charbonneau, LLP today by calling 714-505-3000 to schedule your appointment or email us at email@example.com.
Brown & Charbonneau, LLP is a top-rated business litigation, corporate, real estate and family law firm in Irvine, California. We are honored to be named by Best’s Lawyers® as one of the Top Law Firms in the US, including the specialty area of commercial litigation. As an AV-rated law firm, we are proud of our 10.0 Superb Client Rating from Avvo. Our top-reviewed Southern California attorneys have also earned specializations from the State Bar of California, as Certified Trial Specialists, and are included amongst the elite attorneys to be named Super Lawyers®.
- General Business & Corporate
- Business Litigation & Contract Disputes
- Civil Litigation
- Partnership & Shareholder Disputes
- Fraud Claims
- Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims
- Real Estate & Construction Disputes
- Trade Secrets, Non-Competes & Unfair Competition
- Employment Disputes
- Personal Injury & Elder Abuse Cases
- Trial Specialist
- Family Law
Our website is full of valuable information and resources. Our goal is to provide as much information as possible to assist all our clients in making fully informed decisions. Just click any area of interest.
Brown & Charbonneau, LLP publications should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general information purposes only and may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication or proceeding without the prior written consent of the Firm, to be given or withheld at our discretion. To request reprint permission for any of our publications, please contact us. The mailing of this publication is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. The views set forth herein are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Firm.