How Much Does a Lawsuit Cost, Anyways?
In Florida, there are three court systems, each of which has its own cost structure. There are the small claims courts, county courts, and circuit courts. If you are the Plaintiff, the filing fee for each is different:
- $55 - $300 (Small Claims)
- $300 (County Court)
- $400 (Circuit Court)
Additionally, the Clerk of Court charges $5 as an administrative charge to process the filing fee, plus $10 per defendant to issue each summons. Depending upon the county, you can expect to pay another $45 to $90 per defendant for a Sheriff or Process Server to serve each defendant (more if service is difficult).
Now that your case is filed, if you are in small claims, mediation is included in the filing fee. In County or Circuit Civil, you will be ordered to mediation prior to trial. The mediation fee is split between the parties and is charged by the hour. In County Court, the mediator may be assigned by the Court. In Circuit Court, the parties typically agree upon the mediator. Expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $500 per hour for a mediator, usually with 3-4 hours minimum.
Depositions are common in almost every case except small claims cases. There is an "appearance fee" charged to whomever schedules the deposition, plus a per page charge if the transcript is ordered. The number of depositions depends upon the complexity of the case, but there can be one or two depositions in a County Court case to as many as 20 or more depositions in a complex Circuit Court case. Your attorney can give you a better idea what to expect in your particular case.
You also can expect to pay for one or more experts in County or Circuit Court cases. These may be handwriting experts, medical experts, or some other type of expert, depending upon your specific case. It is typical for experts to require a minimum of $1,000 to $2,000 as a retainer and to bill hourly for review of documents and depositions as well as for their own deposition and trial testimony. EXPERTS DO NOT COME CHEAPLY, but they can make or break a case.
There are other expenses that come up in every case. Witness subpoenas, demonstrative exhibits, third-party charges for documents (which can be expensive in some cases), and more. These can be difficult to predict at the outset, but your attorney may have a good idea of what to expect depending upon the type of case.
Some of these expenses may be recoverable if you win at trial. For example, the filing and service fee, the expert fees, subpoena and witness fees, demonstrative aids, and some deposition and/or transcript fees may all be recoverable to the extent used at trial.
Florida follows the rule that in the absence of a statute or contract, each side has to pay their own attorneys' fees. How much will litigating your case cost you? This is almost impossible to estimate. Will the other side vigorously prosecute or defend the case? Will they settle early? Will they agree to early mediation? Will you insist on having your own day in court? Will the other side? In many respects, each side plays an important role in keeping legal fees from getting out of hand, as do the lawyers for each side.
In the absence of a statute or contract allowing for the recovery of attorneys' fees, there is only a small chance of recovering fees from the other side. These cases are rare, indeed, and clients should not expect this type of remedy.
The unfortunate truth is Litigation is Expensive! A client should carefully weigh the cost of litigation, the probability of success, the likelihood of collecting (if a plaintiff), and other alternatives such as early settlement. Ron Marlowe has over 30 years of commercial litigation experience and has tried or settled thousands of matters in his career. If you have a business or commercial dispute, contact Marlowe Law for a free consultation.