Law Office of Isaac J. Mass -- Greenfield, Massachusuetts
_ Don’t let the government push you around and scare you from protecting your rights.  Many people are afraid that the government has a huge advantage in unlimited resources to pay for attorneys.  And worse, if a case gets thrown out, the plaintiff could get stuck on the hook for those fees and lose even more than if they never went to court.  It is a method some governments and large corporations use to intimidate small guys not to pursue their rights.  That is just the message being sent inEfron v. Mora Dev. Corp., No 11-1347 (2012). Puerto Rico in the First Circuit, shares the same Federal Appeals Court as Massachusetts.  Unlimited resources, however, does not mean attorneys can rack up hours and bills on frivolous defense.  

In this case the Plaintiff owned land near lots intended for development. The Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority planned to condemn (take by the power of eminent domain) most of plaintiff's land, to help complete the development. The Plaintiff's filed a motion to dismiss the condemnation proceeding and halt the taking of his property, but the Federal district court in Puerto Rico rejected it.  So the Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the developer, Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority  and their employees, alleging conspiracy to deprive him of his property without just compensation or due process and torts claims under commonwealth law of Puerto Rico.   The district court entered summary judgment for defendants.  Further the court awarded $92,149 in attorney fees to the Defendant’s. On March 26th the First Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the fee award. They held that Puerto Rican law provides process to get compensation for property takings by the government and the Plaintiff did not take advantage of that process. Those were the only facts that needed to be shown for the dismissal, so the award of $92,149 in attorney’s fees was not justified.  

If you have a case against a monster defendant like the government or a mega corporation.  You should not be afraid because your David facing Goliath.  First you want a good evaluation of your case and want to be sure you have exhausted all your administrative remedies.  Sometimes a court case is premature when you could still work with an agency to resolve your problem.  Finally, you want an attorney who will give you a fair evaluation of your chances, not every case is a winner.  If after your evaluation you decide to go forward, be sure that your attorney keeps records of and objects to improper actions by the other attorney’s so that you can defend yourself from padded bills should you be charged with covering the other sides attorney fees.   

Remember we work under the American system and not the English system, which means, in most cases, each client is responsible for his or her own attorney fees regardless of who brought the action of who wins.  In some cases, however, it is possible to get attorney fees awarded when the other claim is frivolous or a statute authorizes it.  Even in those cases, however, the paying client does not have to pay for unnecessary work.

If you would like to have an evaluation of you case contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass for a free consultation.  


(c) 2012 Law Office of Isaac J. Mass, 289 Main Street, Suite 201 Greenfield, MA 01301