By: Heather Bessinger - Attorney
In a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Haeger, the Court held that a court can award attorneys’ fees as a sanction for bad faith discovery conduct, but reasoned that the appropriate standard is a “but-for” test. That is, the award must be limited to those fees incurred by the non-offending party solely due to the purported misconduct. This decision is important because it clarifies that there are limits on the amount of legal fees that can be recovered for discovery disputes. In its unanimous decision, the Court noted that civil sanctions are intended to be compensatory rather than punitive, thus limiting fee awards to the actual losses sustained. Here, the goal is “rough justice,” meaning the courts are not expected to conduct a detailed accounting analysis; instead, they may estimate and account for the “overall sense” of the costs incurred in lawsuit.