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How losing a civil case could cost you the defendant's legal fees

In the United States, there is a belief among some people that if you lose a civil case, you may be ordered to pay the winning side's attorneys' fees. Likely perpetuated by television and movies, this is a misconception that would otherwise, if true, deter anyone from ever filing a civil complaint out of fear of incurring additional costs because of litigation.

Although this is something important to keep in mind, it's also worth pointing out that there are exceptions to this rule, especially if a state statute allows the recovery of attorneys' fees regardless of the outcome of the case. Our Los Angeles readers can see this exemplified by a copyright infringement case that was levied against Blizzard and Blizzard Entertainment back in 2012.

For those who may not have heard about the case, Blizzard was accused of "copyright infringement and misappropriation" by a former employee who claimed that the video game designer used her voice and song for an in-game creature that she said eventually became "the de facto mascot of the billion-dollar enterprise." Her claim sought restitution for the royalties she believed she would have received had she held a copyright to the audio segments.

According to court documents, Blizzard's attorney warned the former employee that she might have to pay back attorneys' fees and was told that if she dismissed her case, the game maker would not hold her legally responsible for the fees.

She did not heed these warnings, however, or except the offer, reports indicate. It's because of this, and because a federal judge awarded Blizzard summary judgment, that the former employee must now pay back more than $28,000 in legal fees -- an unfortunate ending that could have gone differently if different choices were made.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Student Hit Up for Fees After 'Warcraft' Debacle," Jonny Bonner, Sept. 26, 2014

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