Prevailing parties in litigation generally do not recover their attorney’s fees. Exceptions include where a contract or statute expressly provides for it. However, prevailing parties in litigation typically do recover their costs and disbursements.
Minnesota statutes provide that prevailing parties in district court actions “shall be allowed reasonable disbursements paid or incurred” and that “[u]pon a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor of $100 or more in an action for recovery of money only,” a plaintiff may recover $200 in costs. Minn. Stat. §§ 549.04, 549.02.
Of course, Minn. Stat. § 549.04 does not define what is meant by “reasonable” disbursements, and “costs” may include more than there mere $200 awarded by Minn. Stat. § 549.02. In a recent case involving a dispute between a condominium association, developer and contractor under the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act (MCIOA), Minn. Stat. §§ 515B.1-101 – 515.4-118 (2014), the terms “costs and disbursements” were construed rather broadly. See 650 N. Main Ass’n v. Frauenshuh, Inc., 885 N.W.2d 478, 499 (Minn. App. 2016). In Frauenshuh, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s decision to award the homeowner’s association more than $75,000 in costs and disbursements. As explained in this article, the court’s decision was based on the interplay between the aforementioned costs and disbursements statutes, the MCIOA, and a statute related to court fees.
The MCIOA codifies a homeowners’ association’s rights in a common interest community (i.e., communities of townhomes and condominiums) to bring causes of action against various parties for engineering and construction defects. Read more.