Can I be liable for a general contractor’s attorney fees?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I be liable for a general contractor’s attorney fees?

I hired a general contractor, per bank insistence, to remodel a building into a home. There were issues with the foundation contractor he hired and he got an attorney. He had asked us to go in with him on the suit. Thinking we might but needing more information, we attended a meeting with his attorney and our general contractor. His attorney advised us to seek independent counsel, as we

could have a case against our general contractor. However, he could represent us if we signed a waiver of right to take legal action against our general contractor. As the job was just beginning, while we had verbally agreed to join him, when advised that we would give up our right to legal action against him to do so, we changed our minds and did not sign the waiver. We had no

input during that meeting, told so by his attorney. Now, the general contractor, while paid in full for the work, has stopped working until we pay his attorney’s fees. Can we be legally responsible for those fees?

Asked on October 19, 2017 under Business Law, South Dakota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You are only legally liable or responsible for another's legal fees if you agreed to pay. If you never signed the necessary waiver or any other agreement to cover part of the fee, you would not have to: an agreement to pay another's legal fees generally needs to be in writing to be enforceable.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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