Recovering Reasonable Attorneys Fees after a Defense Verdict in Nevada

Posted by: on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

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The prevailing defendants in Smith V. Crown Fin. Svcs of America, 890 P2d 767 (Nev. 1995) argued in the trial court that they should be awarded attorneys’ fees because a defense verdict has a value of $20,000 or less. The defendants then asked for an award of attorney’s fees based upon NRS § 18.010(2)(a).

This statute allows for  “attorneys fees to a prevailing party: (a) when the prevailing party has not recovered more than $20,000.”  The general rule is Nevada is that attorney’s fees are not recoverable by the successful party except pursuant to statute or where the written agreement entitles the prevailing party to an award of reasonable attorney’s fees.

However, the Nevada Supreme Court held that a prevailing defendant may not use this statute as a basis for recovery of attorney’s fees in Nevada. In Smith v. Crown Fin. Svcs. Of America, 111 Nev. 277, 281, 890 P.2d 769, 771 (1995),  the Nevada Supreme Court
said:

“Under the present formulation of the statute, eliminating the requirement of a
money judgment would afford some prevailing plaintiffs (those recovering no
more than $20,000) and all prevailing defendants the opportunity to recover
attorney fees. This over-inclusive result could deeply offend the policy
underlying the American Rule which seeks to provide less affluent people with
access to the courts. For example, a plaintiff in a personal injury or products
liability case would not only be required to pit his meager resources against
those of a large insurance company or manufacturer, he would also risk the
potentially devastating burden of paying for this marshalling of superior
resources should he lose.

By retaining the requirement of a money judgment, this court preserves the
right of some plaintiffs (and counterclaimants) to recover attorney fees while
subjecting defendants to the common law rule. Although this under-inclusive
rule gives plaintiffs an advantage, it does so only in cases involving $20,000
or less. This rule is faithful to the language of NRS 18.010(2)(a), it provides
a significant portion of the intended class of beneficiaries with the intended
benefit of being able to recover attorney fees, and it minimizes any harmful
impact upon the policies underlying the American Rule.”

Thus, in cases involving no contractual attorneys’ fees clause,  the only other way for a defendant to obtain an award of attorney’s fees is by making an Offer of Judgment and then obtaining a more favorable verdict.

About the Authors: The law firm of Albright, Stoddard, Warnick & Albright is an A-V Rated Nevada-based full-service law firm having attorneys licensed in Nevada, California and Utah.  Our firm’s practice includes a strong emphasis on construction law, contracts and litigation in the jurisdictions where we are licensed.

Note: This article, and any other information you obtain at this website, is not offered as legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as such, nor is it a solicitation for legal services.  Only a licensed attorney can advise you with respect to your specific legal needs. We welcome your contacting our firm to discuss such representation.  Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

 

About the Authors: The law firm of Albright, Stoddard, Warnick & Albright is an A-V Rated Nevada-based full-service law firm having attorneys licensed in Nevada, California and Utah. Our firm’s practice includes a strong emphasis on personal injury accidents. Call us at 702-384-7111.

Note: This article, and any other information you obtain at this website, is not offered as legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as such, nor is it a solicitation for legal services. Only a licensed attorney can advise you with respect to your specific legal needs. We welcome your contacting our firm to discuss such representation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.