Much to my clients' chagrin (and yes, I get asked this question a lot), the instances where you can actually recover your legal fees expended on a case in New York are very rare. But that doesn't mean that there aren't some circumstances where you can get them. As noted in "How You Can Recover Your Legal Fees in a NY Breach of Contract Case," one way you can recover legal expenses is if you have a written agreement that allows for the recovery of legal fees. (A verbal, or unwritten agreement on this issue will not suffice). But what if (like most cases) you don't have any such agreement? Then you are left with two (2) other possibilities: (1) if legal fees are provided for by statute or court rule (see, e.g., Matter of A.G. Ship Maintenance Corp. v Lezak, 69 NY2d 1, 5; see Baker v Health Mgt. Sys., 98 NY2d 80, 88, rearg denied 98 NY2d 728); or, (2) if the parties have "acted with disinterested malevolence' [and have] . . . intentionally [sought] to inflict economic injury on [another party] by forcing [him or her] to engage legal counsel' " (Anniszkiewicz v Harrison, 291 AD2d 829, 830, lv denied 98 NY2d 611; see Rinaudo v City of Rochester, 148 AD2d 984). As you might well imagine, the latter standard is extremely difficult to prove.
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