Who Is Responsible For Legal Fees In An FDUTPA Lawsuit?
The Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) is a core business and consumer protection law in our state. It allows private parties to bring a civil suit directly against a business or organization that caused them losses through deception or other improper commercial practices.
Who is liable for legal costs when a party brings a claim under the FDUTPA? The statute allows for fee-shifting—but it is at the discretion of the court. Here, our Miami deceptive and unfair trade practices attorney highlights key things that you should know about legal fees in FDUTPA lawsuits.
Florida State Law Explicitly Permits Fee-Shifting in FDUTPA Lawsuits
State law explicitly provides for ‘fee-shifting’ in FDUTPA. In effect, this means that the court has the power to order the losing party to pay the legal fees of the winning party. It is a significant departure from the more general ‘American rule’—whereby it is assumed that each party to a lawsuit is responsible for their own legal fees, regardless of the outcome of the case.
Attorneys’ Fees Can Be Shifted in Both Directions (To the Plaintiff or to the Defendant)
While FDUTPA is primarily designed to protect consumers, it is important to note that the provision for fee-shifting isn’t one-sided. In other words, if a defendant successfully defends against an FDUTPA lawsuit, the court could require the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s legal fees. The provision seeks to deter frivolous lawsuits and to ensure fairness in the litigation process.
Florida Courts Do Not Always Award Fees—Authority is at their Discretion
To be clear, attorneys’ fees and other legal costs are not awarded as damages in every FDUTPA lawsuit—far from it. Despite the explicit provision for fee-shifting in FDUTPA, Florida courts retain broad discretion in deciding whether to award fees. It is not a given that the prevailing party will have their legal fees covered by the opposing party. Courts consider several factors before making this decision, including the nature of the case, the conduct of the parties, and the financial burden imposed on the winning party.
Specific Circumstances Always Matter (Fees More Likely to Be Awarded in Egregious Case)
In determining whether to shift legal fees, courts give considerable weight to the specific circumstances of each case. For instance, in cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious or clearly violated FDUTPA, courts are more likely to award fees to the plaintiff. On the other hand, if a lawsuit is found to be baseless or filed in bad faith, the court may require the plaintiff to cover the defendant’s legal fees.
Get Help From a Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Lawyer in Florida
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our South Florida FDUTPA lawyers are committed to protecting the rights and interests of our clients. We advocate for both plaintiffs and defendants in FDUTPA claims. If you have any questions about legal fees and FDUTPA lawsuits, please do not hesitate to contact us today. From our law office in Miami and our law office in West Palm Beach, we are well-situated to handle FDUTPA lawsuits throughout all of Southeastern Florida.