A series of lawsuits were filed over the past few years against Ringling Brother’s Circus alleging animal cruelty in how they kept their animals. There isn’t much news worthy about such lawsuits except, apparently, there was no truth to the charges. In fact, a Federal Court found the claims made against the circus by the animal rights groups were “frivolous, unreasonable and groundless” and ordered them to pay the lawyer fees of the circus in defending themselves. Those fees were at least $25 million!
In Florida Loser Pays
Most everyone would agree the loser should pay for bringing “frivolous, unreasonable and groundless charges.” That call seems easy. But Florida has a form of “loser pays” that can bite the plaintiff, and it doesn’t require the claim to be declared “frivolous or groundless.”
In Florida, if your case goes to trial the jury verdict can hurt you in two ways after our “loser pays” rules are activated. First, if the jury says the defendant was not at fault in causing the accident or injuring you, the judge will order you to pay the other side’s lawyer fees. Not good! Second, if the jury agrees the defendant was at fault, but doesn’t award you enough money to beat the last offer the defendant made by the right percentage, the judge will still make you pay the other side’s legal fees. Yep, that means if you actually win your case but guess wrong on what your case was worth, you still pay!
It’s not all bad since if the defense guesses wrong about what your case is worth and we beat their last offer by the right percentage they have to pay your legal fees.
This is a far cry from filing one of those “frivolous or groundless” lawsuits we hear so much about. That’s why we are careful about lawsuits we file and make sure every client understands how “loser pays” works.