Recovering Attorney Fees in Colorado

One of the first questions I’m asked by a new litigation client is the ability for getting attorneys fees back from the lawsuit.

The general “American Rule” on recovering attorney fees in Colorado lawsuits is that you don’t — each side pays their own costs and attorney fees in the case. The exceptions to the Rule are found in cases where the recovery of attorney fees is subject to a prevailing-party type clause in a contract (loser pays) or a similar provision for civil claims brought under a statue providing for recovery of legal fees and costs. I generally think of examples of the statutes that provide for recovery of legal fees those that are enacted for the public interest such as environmental pollution statutes,  consumer protection laws, or employment discrimination claims–the types of cases that the public interest is served when justice prevails, but where ordinary plaintiffs in many cases would not be able to pursue claims if their ability to do so turned on their ability to afford to hire a lawyer.

Here’s a running list of common ways parties seek recovering attorney fees in Colorado business lawsuits:

  • Under a contract’s prevailing party “fee shifting” (loser pays) clause in breach of contract cases,
  • Colo. Rev. Stat. 13-17-102  (frivolous and groundless litigation),
  • Obdurate behavior doctrine (attorney fees may be awarded if the losing party has acted in bad faith or for oppressive reasons),
  • Civil claims under the RICO or COCA statutes (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations),
  • (Coming Soon…)