American rule

American rule
The traditional "American Rule" is that attorney fees are not awardable to the winning party (i.e. each litigant must pay his own attorney fees) unless statutorily or contractually authorized; however exceptions exist in that an award may be made to successful party if the opponent has acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly or for oppressive reasons or if the litigation confers a substantial benefit on the members of an ascertainable class and the court's subject matter jurisdiction makes possible an award that will operate to spread the costs proportionately among them. Huecker v. Milburn, C.A.Ky., 538 F.2d 1241, 1245.
In addition a court may in its discretion award attorney fees in civil rights actions to the prevailing defendant if the action was frivolous, unreasonable or without foundation. Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 98 S.Ct. 694.
Also, a number of federal statutes make provision for awards of attorney fees to prevailing plaintiffs in actions involving violations of various federal laws (e.g., Fair Labor Standards Act, No. 16, 29 U.S.C.A. No. 216(b)).

Black's law dictionary. . 1990.

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