Prior to last week, deciding whether (and how much) to award for attorneys’ fees in a lawsuit was determined by a judge, not a jury. That is no longer the case in Minnesota. The Minnesota Supreme Court in United Prairie Bank-Mountain Lake v. Haugen Nutrition & Equip., LLC held that juries will, in many cases, determine how much to award for attorneys’ fees, not the judge.
So. What does this mean for the average Minnesotan? Well, if you have signed a contract agreeing to be responsible for the other person’s attorneys’ fees (i.e. promissory notes, personal guarantees, business contracts), you may now have additional leverage to negotiate and/or litigate whether or not the other party’s legal fees are reasonable. A jury may view the reasonableness of legal fees very differently than a judge — and allowing a jury to make that determination certainly adds a new level of uncertainty to a lawsuit when the other party is trying to recover their legal expenses.
What does this mean for business owners who have relied on attorneys’ fees provision in their contracts to protect themselves? You need to immediately review and update your contract provisions with your attorney.
This blog contains general information, is not intended to be legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. Because every situation is unique and requires legal advice specific to those facts, contact us at 320-253-7130 if you have questions about how the United Prairie Bank-Mountain Lake v. Haugen Nutrition & Equip., LLC decision impacts you.