The short answer is: “No.”

At the end of a trial, a successful party can request that the Judge order that the unsuccessful party pay a portion of the successful party’s legal costs.  Legal costs can include lawyer’s fees, as well as disbursements like photocopies, postage, expert’s fees and travel costs.

In most cases, “costs follow the cause”.  All this means is that, in most cases, costs will indeed by awarded to the successful party.  However, most commonly they will be awarded on a partial indemnity basis.  Partial indemnity usually means only approximately 40%-60% of the successful party’s actual lawyer’s fees.

A higher costs award is one on a substantial indemnity basis.  Substantial indemnity usually means approximately 60%-80%, although such costs awards are rarer.

Ultimately, an award of costs is in the discretion of a Judge.  Factors that a Judge might consider in making an award of costs could include:

  • any written settlement offer;
  • the amount of costs that the unsuccessful party could reasonably expect to pay;
  • the amount claimed and the amount recovered in the proceeding;
  • the complexity of the proceeding;
  • the importance of the issues;
  • the conduct of any party that tended to shorten or to lengthen unnecessarily the duration of the proceeding;
  • whether any step in the proceeding was improper; and
  • a party’s denial of or refusal to admit anything that should have been admitted.

Invariably however, if a settlement is reached between the parties, the settlement will be concluded on a without costs basis.  In other words, in those situations each party would be responsible for all of his or her own legal costs.

If you have any questions regarding your civil litigation matter, please contact Peter Karsten at 519-426-6763 or

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