Oftentimes our lawyers in Charleston, South Carolina are asked if a client can collect their attorney’s fees if they win their case. In South Carolina, attorney’s fees can only be recovered by contract, statute, or (less commonly) for “equitable indemnification.” For example, if you have a contract to do XY and Z with someone for payment, and the contract provides that if you sue to enforce it, you will be entitled to an award of attorney’s fees, then the court will honor those terms. Various statutes also allow claims for recovery of attorney’s fees. For example, in family court, a spouse can collect attorney’s fees. Other statutes which include an award of attorney’s fees are unfair trade practices, unpaid wages, and mechanic’s liens.
Attorney’s Fees for Equitable Indemnification
Equitable indemnification is different from than a standard claim for attorney’s fees. In cases involved attorney’s fees pursuant to a contract or a statute, a party is requesting its attorney’s fees incurred in suing the wrongdoer. In most equitable indemnification cases, the plaintiff gets sued in another case due to the actions of the wrongdoer. The plaintiff then sues the wrongdoer and seeks to recover the attorney’s fees incurred in defending the first suit. One example is the case of McCoy v. Miles. In McCoy, an owner of property used this property as a service station. After the property became contaminated due to the owner’s use and after DHEC had begun investigating the matter, the owner sold the property to some buyers. The owner/seller didn’t disclose any of the environmental issues to the buyers. Later, an adjoining property owner sued the buyers because the contamination damaged the adjoining land. The buyers then cross-sued the original owner/seller, claiming that the original owner/seller was responsible for the contamination damage and claiming the original owner/seller should pay the buyer’s attorney’s fees in defending the lawsuit by the adjoining property owner. The South Carolina Supreme Court held that the buyers were entitled to recover their attorney’s fees and defense costs from the original owner/seller. To reach its decision, the Court utilized the test that had been good in South Carolina for many years. Under this test, the party seeking indemnification must first show that “