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HR Solutions

No Attorney's Fees Allowed in Commercial Litigation Case

02/13/06

 

    A cleaning service sued an apartment management company for fees 
owed under a contract that provided the defendant was responsible to 
the plaintiff for "all collection costs."  An appeals court in Illinois
a few weeks ago held that this language did NOT entitle the cleaning 
service to attorney's fees. Negro Nest LLC v. Mid-Northern Management 
(December 1, 2005). 
 
    Illinois follows the "American Rule" in litigation, meaning that each 
party pays its own lawyer's fees. One exception is when the 
statute involved - such as in an employment discrimination case - shifts the
duty to pay the lawyer to the employer if the plaintiff wins.  
Another exception, applicable in cases like Negro Nest, is a contract 
provision clearly shifting the fees to the defendant.
 
    The court held the attorney's fees provisions should be strictly construed, 
and that "responsible for all collection costs" was too imprecise to be 
construed as requiring Mid-Northern to cover Negro's fees.