If I lose a sexual harassment case in court, do I have to pay their attorneys' fees and costs?
Employment / Labor Attorney
Unless your claim was "frivolous," as that word is defined by law, you will not have to pay the defendant's attorney's fees. You will be subject to paying the defendant's costs of suit. You will be able to challenge each cost item. Also, you may be able to negotiate a reduction or waiver of costs with the defendant, which is sometimes done by signing an agreement not to appeal.
There are nuances and details of this, so if you are planning a lawsuit, be sure to discuss this with your attorney.
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I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.
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Employment / Labor Attorney
Under the rules of American jurisprudence, parties who lose lawsuits do not pay the winner's attorney's fees unless it is called for by the specific statute the lawsuit is based upon. We do have state and federal statutes that permit attorneys' fees to be awarded to the prevailing party in a sexual harassment lawsuit. Generally, a victim of sexual harassment who prevails in trial can be awarded their reasonable attorneys' fees. The judge decides what is reasonable based on many factors provided to the court. If the person who brought the lawsuit loses, the judge has the discretion to award attorneys' fees to the defendant, if the defendant can convince the court that the case was frivolous. In other words, the employee's case clearly had no merit and should not have been brought in the first place, or continued, once it became clear the case lacked merit. It has been the source of much debate, what it takes to show that a case was frivolous. Courts have to be careful to make such findings, because the purpose of the statute is to protect employee rights. If the employer is awarded its fees just because the employee cannot meet their burden of proof, many legitimate claims would never be brought due to the fear of owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Costs of suit are different. Many necessary costs are awarded to the prevailing party. These would include, court filing fees, court reporter fees, jury fees, sometimes expert witness fees and other costs. For this reason, care must be taken before decision whether to file a lawsuit.
They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.
Employment / Labor Attorney
Generally speaking, you would not be responsible for the other party's attorney's fees, unless your lawsuit was considered "frivolous" under the law - in a nutshell, this means lacking in merit and unsupported by facts and law, and other, more detailed factors defined by case law.
A prevailing party is entitled to reimbursement of costs of litigation, so if you were to lose your case, you would be responsible for the other party's costs, after having the opportunity to contest some of the cost items claimed through a noticed motion.
Sexual harassment cases are very fact-specific, and if you are considering making a claim or filing a lawsuit, the best course of action is to seek a confidential consultation with an employment attorney. Good luck!
Nothing in this response is intended as a legal consultation or advice on your particular case, and is provided only as a general statement of information, and only with respect to California law. No attorney-client relationship is created and no contract for legal services is formed as a result of this posting or other postings before or after this posting. Various limitation periods, deadlines and cut-offs also may apply. You should therefore seek private consultation from an attorney regarding the merits of your case and the deadlines involved in your matter. Since this is a public forum, this posting is not confidential.
Real Estate Attorney
I agree with all the above answers. I want to point out that depositions are among the costs that the court will award to the prevailing party. In sexual harassment cases, the costs of depositions frequently go into five figures.
Employment / Labor Attorney
I have heard that some defendants will agree to waive costs if the losing employee waives the right to appeal, especially if the employer knows that it will be unable to collect on a cost bill against the employee.
If you have a righteous case, the possibility of losing and paying costs should not be a deterrent to enforcing your civil rights. Way over 90% of cases settle, and plaintiff's statistically do better in sexual harassment cases than most other employment discrimination cases.
A good lawyer will be able to analyze your case and give you projections -- not guarantees -- about possible upside and downside. Every case and every client is different.
David A. Mallen offers answers on Avvo for general information only. This offer of free, general answers is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. If you need specific advice regarding your legal question, you should consult an attorney confidentially. Many experienced California labor and employment attorneys, including David A. Mallen offer no-risk legal consultations to employers and employees at no charge. David A. Mallen is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, as well as the California Labor Commissioner and the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Failure to take legal action within the time periods prescribed by law could result in the loss of important legal rights and remedies.
In most states you wouldn't unless the opposing party was able to prove to the court that your claim was frivolous.
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