Washington Case Law Update: Contract Provision May Entitle Prevailing Party to Attorneys’ Fees

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Washington Case Law Update: Contract Provision May Entitle Prevailing Party to Attorneys’ Fees

From the desk of Kyle D. Riley: Washington law requires trial courts to award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party when the action is based on a contract that specifically provides for an award of attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party. However, when there are multiple causes of action brought in a single lawsuit, some of which are not based in contract, how do the courts approach an attorneys’ fee award? Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of an employment dispute, the Court of Appeals held that because the trial court carefully considered the request for attorneys’ fees and found that the hours spent on the case were reasonable, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding a significant amount in attorneys’ fees. The case serves as an important reminder to review contracts carefully to identify attorneys’ fee provisions that may result in large attorneys’ fee awards.

Great Floors, LLC, v. Wholesale Floors, LLC, No. 75244-8-I, Washington Court of Appeals (July 31, 2017) (unpublished)

Great Floors, LLC (“Great Floors”), an Idaho-based specialty floor covering business, does business in both Washington and Idaho. Two of its long-term employees, Vice President of Commercial Sales Ian Martin (“Martin”) and Spokane Commercial Sales Division Manager Dan Gamble (“Gamble”), signed employment contracts containing nondisclosure agreements and agreements not to compete with Great Floors for one year after the termination of their employment. In January 2014, Martin and Gamble informed Great Floors that they were leaving the company and gave their two weeks’ notice. They took positions as Operations Consultants with Wholesale Floors, LLC (“Wholesale Floors”).

Both Martin and Gamble continued to have social contact with Great Floors’ customers and assisted Wholesale Floors with its preparations to...

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