Table of Contents
- Washington State Legal Fees
- $10,000 or less
- Abortion clinic protestors
- Animal rights – agricultural or veterinary
- Animal rights – research lab
- Aircraft impounding
- Art dealer relationship with “fine art” artists
- Automobile repair
- Athletic agent or former student athlete
- Bad Faith or Wantonness
- Business Opportunity Fraud
- Collection of debts
- Common Fund
- Consumer Credit Report
- Consumer Protection Act
- Credit service organization
- Disposal of personal information
- Equitable Indemnification
- Franchise Investment Protection
- Frivolous Action
- Going out of business sales
- Health Studios (Gyms)
- Immigration Services
- International Student Exchange Organizations
- Malicious and unfounded actions
- Mortgage Brokers
- Mortgage Loan Servicing
- Motor vehicle warranty – Lemon Law
- Motor vehicle title – transfer or leasing
- Pay per call
- Promotional Advertising of Prizes
- Recover possession from pawnbroker or secondhand dealer
- Telephone solicitation
- Travel (Sellers of Travel)
- Unfair Agricultural Marketing
- Unsolicited goods
Washington State Legal Fees
Please update the research on this page before relying on its content
This page describes some but not all of the statutes in Washington State that provide for legal fees.
The general rule in the United States is that each party pays their own legal fees (in contrast to other common law countries like the United Kingdom). The exception to the rule comes from specific agreements in contracts, equitable grounds, or in statutes that award legal fees in certain circumstances. “In Washington, “‘[a]ttorney fees may be recovered only when authorized by statute, a recognized ground of equity, or agreement of the parties.'” Wiley v. Rehak, 143 Wn.2d 339, 348, 20 P.3d 404 (2001) (alteration in original) (quoting Perkins Coie v. Williams, 84 Wn. App. 733, 742-43, 929 P.2d 1215 (1997)).” Niccum v Enquist (2012 WaSC).
Often the language of contracts and statutes provides that the prevailing party is entitled to legal fees. The court or arbitration panel must decide who is the prevailing party (sometimes the decision is split with wins on both sides), how to allocate the fees incurred (time can be spent on losing issues), and what is a reasonable fee under the circumstances.
$10,000 or less
RCW § 4.84.250 awards attorney fees to the prevailing party for cases which plead damages of less than $10,000 whether in District or Superior Court (RCW § 4.84.300).
Abortion clinic protestors
Interfering with the operation of a health clinic or hospital is actionable and attorney fees are awarded to the prevailing party. RCW § 9A.50.040
Animal rights – agricultural or veterinary
“Joint and several liability for damages shall apply to persons and organizations that commit an intentional tort by taking, releasing, destroying or damaging any animal or animals kept by a person for agricultural production purposes or by a veterinarian for veterinary purposes; or by destroying or damaging any farm or veterinary equipment or supplies pertaining to such animal or animals.”Attorney fees, a $100,000 fine, and investigation costs are awardable to the plaintiff. RCW § 4.24.575.
Animal rights – research lab
“Joint and several liability for damages shall apply to persons and organizations that commit an intentional tort by (a) taking, releasing, destroying, contaminating, or damaging any animal or animals kept in a research or educational facility, where the animal or animals are used or to be used for medical research or other research purposes, or for educational purposes; or (b) destroying or damaging any records, equipment, research product, or other thing pertaining to such animal or animals.” Attorney fees, a $100,000 fine, and investigation costs are awardable to the plaintiff. RCW § 4.24.570.
Prevailing party is awarded attorney fees in a action over the validity of impounding an aircraft for airport charges. RCW § 14.08.122
Art dealer relationship with “fine art” artists
“An art dealer violating RCW 18.110.030 is liable to the artist for fifty dollars plus actual damages, including incidental and consequential damages, sustained as a result of the violation. If an art dealer violates RCW 18.110.030, the artist’s obligation for compensation to the art dealer is voidable. In an action under this section the court may, in its discretion, award the artist reasonable attorney’s fees.” RCW § 18.110.040 The statute requires a written contract and protects the artist’s work and money.
” Failure to comply with estimate requirements An automotive repair facility that fails to comply with the estimate requirements of RCW 46.71.025 is barred from recovering in an action to recover for automotive repairs any amount in excess of one hundred ten percent of the amount authorized by the customer, or the customer’s designee, unless the repair facility proves by a preponderance of the evidence that its conduct was reasonable, necessary, and justified under the circumstances. In an action to recover for automotive repairs the prevailing party may, at the discretion of the court, recover the costs of the action and reasonable attorneys’ fees.” RCW § 46.71.035.
Athletic agent or former student athlete
“(1) An educational institution has a right of action against an athlete agent or a former student-athlete for damages caused by a violation of this chapter. In an action under this section, the court may award to the prevailing party costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.” RCW § 19.225.120.
Bad Faith or Wantonness
A court may grant attorney fees to the prevailing party if the losing party’s conduct constitutes bad faith or wantonness. Public Util. Dist. No. 1 v. Kottsick, , 86 Wn.2d 388, 390 (Wash. 1976)
Business Opportunity Fraud
Washington’s Business Opportunity Fraud statute applies to all sales designed to enable a person to start a business. It requires registration as well as many other specific provisions. Violation are per se violations of the CPA. RCW § 19.110.170
Collection of debts
The statute prohibits numerous transactions and requires licenses. RCW § 19.16.440 makes violations of licensing or prohibited conduct per se CPA violations. More.
If a litigant preserved or created a specific monetary fund for the benefit of others as well as himself, attorney fees are awarded. Peoples Nat’l Bank v. Jarvis, 58 Wn.2d 627, 364 P.2d 436 (1961). The rule extends to situations where the litigant confers a substantial benefit on an ascertainable class. Baker v. Seattle-Tacoma Power Co., 61 Wash. 578, 112 P. 647 (1911); Grein v. Cavano, 61 Wn.2d 498, 379 P.2d 209 (1963). Public Util. Dist. No. 1 v. Kottsick, 86 Wn.2d 388, 390-391 (Wash. 1976)
Consumer Credit Report
The Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates the release of credit report including after identity theft. RCW § 19.182.150 makes violations of licensing or prohibited conduct per se CPA violations. Intentional violations add a $1000 penalty.
Credit service organization
“”Credit services organization” means any person who, with respect to the extension of credit by others, sells, provides, performs, or represents that he or she can or will sell, provide, or perform, in return for the payment of money or other valuable consideration any of the following services: (i) Improving, saving, or preserving a buyer’s credit record, history, or rating; (ii) Obtaining an extension of credit for a buyer; (iii) Stopping, preventing, or delaying the foreclosure of a deed of trust, mortgage, or other security agreement; or (iv) Providing advice or assistance to a buyer with regard to either (a)(i), (a)(ii), or (a)(iii) of this subsection.” RCW § 19.134.010
“Prohibited conduct A credit services organization, its salespersons, agents, and representatives, and independent contractors who sell or attempt to sell the services of a credit services organization may not do any of the following:
(1) Charge or receive any money or other valuable consideration prior to full and complete performance of the services the credit services organization has agreed to perform for the buyer, unless the credit services organization has obtained a surety bond of ten thousand dollars issued by a surety company admitted to do business in this state and established a trust account at a federally insured bank or savings and loan association located in this state. The surety bond shall run to the state of Washington and the buyers. The surety bond shall be issued on the condition that the principal comply with all provisions of this chapter and fully perform on all contracts entered into with buyers. The surety bond shall be continuous until canceled and shall remain in full force and unimpaired at all times to comply with this section. The surety’s liability for all claims in the aggregate against the continuous bond shall not exceed the penal sum of the bond. An action on the bond may be brought by the state or by any buyer by filing a complaint in a court of competent jurisdiction, including small claims court, within one year of cancellation of the surety bond. A complaint may be mailed by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, to the surety and shall constitute good and sufficient service on the surety;
(2) Charge or receive any money or other valuable consideration solely for referral of the buyer to a retail seller who will or may extend credit to the buyer if the credit that is or will be extended to the buyer is upon substantially the same terms as those available to the general public;
(3) Make or counsel or advise any buyer to make any statement that is untrue or misleading or that should be known by the exercise of reasonable care to be untrue or misleading, to a credit reporting agency or to any person who has extended credit to a buyer or to whom a buyer is applying for an extension of credit with respect to a buyer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, or credit capacity;
(4) Make or use any untrue or misleading representations in the offer or sale of the services of a credit services organization or engage, directly or indirectly, in any act, practice, or course of business that operates or would operate as fraud or deception upon any person in connection with the offer or sale of the services of a credit services organization.” RCW § 19.134.020
“(1) Any buyer injured by a violation of this chapter may bring any action for recovery of damages. Judgment shall be entered for actual damages, but in no case less than the amount paid by the buyer to the credit services organization, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. An award may also be entered for punitive damages. (2) The remedies provided under this chapter are in addition to any other procedures or remedies for any violation or conduct provided for in any other law.” RCW § 19.134.080
Disposal of personal information
(1) “Entity” includes a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, trust, association, financial institution, governmental entity, other than the federal government, and any other individual or group, engaged in a trade, occupation, enterprise, governmental function, or similar activity in this state, however organized and whether organized to operate at a profit.” RCW § 19.215.010
“Destruction of information — Liability — Exception — Civil action
(1) An entity must take all reasonable steps to destroy, or arrange for the destruction of, personal financial and health information and personal identification numbers issued by government entities in an individual’s records within its custody or control when the entity is disposing of records that it will no longer retain.
(2) An entity is not liable under this section for records it has relinquished to the custody and control of the individual to whom the records pertain.
(3) This subsection [section] does not apply to the disposal of records by a transfer of the records, not otherwise prohibited by law, to another entity, including a transfer to archive or otherwise preserve public records as required by law.
(4) An individual injured by the failure of an entity to comply with subsection (1) of this section may bring a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction. The court may: (a) If the failure to comply is due to negligence, award a penalty of two hundred dollars or actual damages, whichever is greater, and costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees; and (b) If the failure to comply is willful, award a penalty of six hundred dollars or damages equal to three times actual damages, whichever is greater, and costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees. However, treble damages may not exceed ten thousand dollars.
(5) An individual having reason to believe that he or she may be injured by an act or failure to act that does not comply with subsection (1) of this section may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to enjoin the act or failure to act. The court may grant an injunction with terms and conditions as the court may deem equitable.” RCW § 19.215.020.
If the wrongful conduct of a person involved an innocent person in the litigation, attorney fees may be awarded under an equitable subordination theory. Dauphin v Smith, 42 Wn. App. 491, 494, 713 P.2d 116 (1986).
Franchise Investment Protection
“(2) Any person who sells or offers to sell a franchise in violation of this chapter shall be liable to the franchisee or subfranchisor who may sue at law or in equity for damages caused thereby for rescission or other relief as the court may deem appropriate. In the case of a violation of RCW 19.100.170 rescission is not available to the plaintiff if the defendant proves that the plaintiff knew the facts concerning the untruth or omission or that the defendant exercised reasonable care and did not know or if he or she had exercised reasonable care would not have known of the untruth or omission. (3) The suit authorized under subsection (2) of this section may be brought to recover the actual damages sustained by the plaintiff and the court may in its discretion increase the award of damages to an amount not to exceed three times the actual damages sustained: PROVIDED, That the prevailing party may in the discretion of the court recover the costs of said action including a reasonable attorneys’ fee.” RCW § 19.100.190. Damages can be trebled. RCW § 19.100.190(3).
In addition to failure to register, it “is unlawful for any person in connection with the offer, sale, or purchase of any franchise or subfranchise in this state directly or indirectly: (1) To make any untrue statement of a material fact in any application, notice, or report filed with the director under this law or willfully to omit to state in any application, notice or report, any material fact which is required to be stated therein or fails to notify the director of any material change as required by RCW 19.100.070(3). (2) To sell or offer to sell by means of any written or oral communication which includes an untrue statement of a material fact or omits to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made in light of the circumstances under which they were made not misleading. (3) To employ any device, scheme, or artifice to defraud. (4) To engage in any act, practice, or course of business which operates or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon any person. (5) To violate any order of the director.” RCW § 19.100.170.
Opposing a frivolous action or defense (RCW § 4.84.185 and CR11).
Going out of business sales
Regulates advertising, limits time, and prohibits continuing in business. Violations are per se CPA violations. RCW § 19.178.110.
Health Studios (Gyms)
Attorney fees are awarded to the prevailing party. RCW § 19.142.110. Violations are per se CPA violations. RCW § 19.142.100. More
Non-lawyers and those not permitted to practice immigration law under federal rules are prohibited from charging for services. Violation is a per se CPA violation. RCW § 19.154.090. More
International Student Exchange Organizations
Registration is required. The Secretary of State regulates this industry. An informational document is proscribed. Violation is a per se CPA violation. RCW § 19.166.100.
Malicious and unfounded actions
Actions for damages that are false, unfounded, malicious, without probable cause, or part of conspiracy brought against a judicial officer, prosecuting authority, or law enforcement officer who prevails in the action (RCW § 4.24.350). There is also a common law action for malicious prosecution allowing attorney fees as damages. (Peasy v Puget Sound Tug & Barge Co., 13 Wn. 2d 485, 497, 125 P.2d 681 (1942))
The statute provides for licensing and a bond. Violations are per se CPA violations. More
Mortgage Loan Servicing
Persons injured by the failure to disclose change in mortgage servicing company may be awarded attorney fees and costs. RCW § 19.148.030.
Motor vehicle warranty – Lemon Law
Failure to fix a vehicle according to the statutory provisions is a per se CPA violation. RCW § 19.118.120.
Motor vehicle title – transfer or leasing
Failure to promptly clear title when selling or leasing a motor vehicle is a per se violation of the CPA. RCW § 19.116.030.
Pay per call
The statute requires certain disclosures and protects children. Violation is a per se CPA violation. RCW § 19.162.010.
“Violations — Action for damages A person who suffers damage from a violation of this chapter may bring an action against an information provider. In an action alleging a violation of this chapter, the court may award the greater of three times the actual damages sustained by the person or five hundred dollars; equitable relief, including but not limited to an injunction and restitution of money and property; attorneys’ fees and costs; and any other relief that the court deems proper. For purposes of this section, a telecommunications company or interexchange carrier is a person. RCW § 19.162.070.
Promotional Advertising of Prizes
Regulates the advertising of prizes and the sending of checks (real or promotional). Damages are available and include the value of prize not received plus $500 or three times actual damages not to exceed $10,000 and attorney fees and costs. RCW § 19.170.060. Violations are per se CPA violations. § 19.170.010.
Recover possession from pawnbroker or secondhand dealer
“Attorney fees and costs in action to recover possession or determine title or ownership
By either party, in an action brought by an owner to recover goods in the possession of a pawnbroker or secondhand dealer, or an action brought by a pawnbroker or secondhand dealer against an owner, or a person claiming ownership, to determine title or ownership of any item, the prevailing party is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.” RCW § 19.60.062.
Registration is required. The time of call and unprofessional conduct is regulated. Penalties are from $500 to $2000. Violation is per se violation of CPA. RCW § 19.158.030. The contract is voidable until a written confirmation is received and at least three days thereafter. RCW § 19.158.120. More
Travel (Sellers of Travel)
Sellers of travel have advertising, registration, and trust fund obligations. Violations of this statute are per se CPA violations. RCW § 19.138.290. Registration is required to bring or defend a legal action.
Unfair Agricultural Marketing
Unlawful actions of handlers, producers, or members are actionable and attorney fees can be awarded. RCW §§ 15.83.030, 15.83.040, and 15.83.070.
It is unlawful to attempt to collect for unsolicited goods or goods solicited but not sold on the solicited terms. RCW § 19.56.020. Sending unsolicited goods or newspapers are CPA violations. RCW § 19.52.030.
Charging interest in excess of the legal rate in non-business transactions is prohibited. Costs and attorney fees are available. RCW § 19.52.030. A usurious contract is a CPA violation. RCW § 19.52.036.