Wednesday, September 19, 2007

S.C. Court of Appeals clarifies pleading requirements for attorney fee award

In SCE&G v. Hartough, a declaratory action was instituted regarding an option contract to purchase land. SCE&G prevailed and was awarded attorney fees against Hartough. On appeal Hartough argued the special referee erred in awarding attorney’s fees inasmuch as SCE&G did not specifically plead it was seeking attorney’s fees pursuant to the option contract but merely stated in its pleading that it sought attorney’s fees for bringing the action. The Court of Appeals found nothing to bar the award of fees:

SCE&G commenced the action in order to determine the validity of the option pursuant to the contract. The contract permitted any prevailing party to seek attorney’s fees in an action to enforce any right under the contract. In addition, the pleadings requested attorney’s fees. Therefore, Hartough was apprised SCE&G would be seeking a recovery of fees if successful. Accordingly, the special referee did not err in awarding fees.

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