607-14.5 Attorneys' fees and costs in civil actions. (a) In any civil action in this State where a party seeks money damages or injunctive relief, or both, against another party, and the case is subsequently decided, the court may, as it deems just, assess against either party, whether or not the party was a prevailing party, and enter as part of its order, for which execution may issue, a reasonable sum for attorneys' fees and costs, in an amount to be determined by the court upon a specific finding that all or a portion of the party's claim or defense was frivolous as provided in subsection (b).

(b) In determining the award of attorneys' fees and costs and the amounts to be awarded, the court must find in writing that all or a portion of the claims or defenses made by the party are frivolous and are not reasonably supported by the facts and the law in the civil action. In determining whether claims or defenses are frivolous, the court may consider whether the party alleging that the claims or defenses are frivolous had submitted to the party asserting the claims or defenses a request for their withdrawal as provided in subsection (c). If the court determines that only a portion of the claims or defenses made by the party are frivolous, the court shall determine a reasonable sum for attorneys' fees and costs in relation to the frivolous claims or defenses.

(c) A party alleging that claims or defenses are frivolous may submit to the party asserting the claims or defenses a request for withdrawal of the frivolous claims or defenses, in writing, identifying those claims or defenses and the reasons they are believed to be frivolous. If the party withdraws the frivolous claims or defenses within a reasonable length of time, the court shall not award attorneys' fees and costs based on those claims or defenses under this section. [L 1980, c 286, 1; am L Sp 1986, c 2, 13; am L 1992, c 47, 1; am L 1999, c 237, 3]

 

Cross References

 

Vexatious litigants, see chapter 634J.

 

Rules of Court

 

Frivolous appeals, see HRAP rule 38.

 

Case Notes

 

Attorney fees were denied; leasing car to foreign national does not in itself constitute negligence on the part of the car lessor. 750 F. Supp. 439 (1990).

Denial of motion for sanctions based on this section was not clearly erroneous, where appellant sought a tax refund. 76 H. 1, 868 P.2d 419 (1994).

Where appellant engaged in a pattern of frivolous and vexatious litigation, court abused its discretion in failing to award appellees reasonable costs and attorney's fees. 87 H. 446, 958 P.2d 1136 (1998).

Trial court abused discretion in granting attorney's fees under this section where, notwithstanding that plaintiff's attorney may have made untrue or inaccurate statements regarding extent of plaintiff's injuries, the question of whether defendant's negligence caused the accident still remained unsolved. 89 H. 292, 972 P.2d 295 (1999).

Where it was apparent that plaintiffs' claims were neither frivolous nor pursued in bad faith, as required for an award of attorneys' fees and costs under this section, trial court did not err in denying defendant's motion for attorneys' fees and costs under this section. 98 H. 309, 47 P.3d 1222 (2002).

Where legal principles addressed in the case were not firmly established, defendants' actions were not frivolous; thus, attorneys' fees under this section were denied. 110 H. 327, 132 P.3d 1238 (2006).

Applies to counterclaim brought after statute's effective date. 4 H. App. 439, 667 P.2d 834 (1983).

Respondent's request for attorneys' fees under this section did not constitute a waiver of its jurisdictional defense or a consent to the circuit court's jurisdiction. 82 H. 405 (App.), 922 P.2d 1018 (1996).

Family court abused its discretion by awarding attorney's fees and costs to father where mother had the right, pursuant to federal and state law, to petition the child support enforcement agency for a review of the child support amount, and such actions on mother's part were not so "manifestly and palpably without merit, so as to indicate bad faith", and there was no evidence that mother filed her motion to enforce in bad faith. 118 H. 268 (App.), 188 P.3d 782 (2008).

Under the circumstances of the case--including that defendant agreed with plaintiff's argument that claims against defendant did not fall within the ambit of the medical claims conciliation panel--where the filing of plaintiff's complaint was not so manifestly and palpably without merit, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant an award of attorney's fees pursuant to this section. 121 H. 235 (App.), 216 P.3d 1258 (2009).

 

 

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