Attorneys’ Fees

Attorneys’ Fees – Recoverability Under Contract

Except as indicated, all indented materials are copied directly from the court’s opinion.

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Appeals

495 Kings Stable LLC v. Pate, No. W2021-00742-COA-R3-CV, p. 14-15 (Tenn. Ct. App. April 5, 2023).

The final issue we address is whether the Trial Court erred in awarding Plaintiff its attorney’s fees without applying the factors contained in Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 8, RPC 1.5 for the determination of a reasonable fee. Generally speaking, “[t]he trial court is vested with wide discretion in matters of the allowance of attorney’s fees, and this Court will not interfere except upon a showing of an abuse of that discretion.” Threadgill v. Threadgill, 740 S.W.2d 419, 426 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1987) (citation omitted). Regarding the abuse of discretion standard of review, “[a] court abuses its discretion when it causes an injustice to the party challenging the decision by (1) applying an incorrect legal standard, (2) reaching an illogical or unreasonable decision, or (3) basing its decision on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence.” Fisher v. Hargett, 604 S.W.3d 381, 395 (Tenn. 2020) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Harmon v. Hickman Cmty. Healthcare Servs., Inc., 594 S.W.3d 297, 305-06 (Tenn. 2020) (citations omitted)).

St. Paul Community Limited Partnership v. St. Paul Community Church N/K/A Green Hills Community Church, No. M2021-01548-COA-R3-CV, p. 6-7 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 9, 2023).

We review a trial court’s decision concerning attorney’s fees applying an abuse of discretion standard. Tenn. State Bank v. Mashek, 616 S.W.3d 777, 792 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2020) (citing Wright ex rel. Wright v. Wright, 337 S.W.3d 166, 176 (Tenn. 2011); In re Estate of Greenamyre, 219 S.W.3d 877, 886 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005) (“[A] trial court will be found to have ‘abused its discretion’ only when it applies an incorrect legal standard,  reaches a decision that is illogical, bases its decision on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence, or employs reasoning that causes an injustice to the complaining party.”)).

Colley v. Colley, No. M2021-00731-COA-R3-CV, p. 5 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 17, 2022). 

As noted above, Wife’s claim for attorney’s fees alternatively rests on statutory and contractual grounds. Both the interpretation of statutes and the interpretation of contracts are questions of law and, therefore, require a de novo review on appeal with no presumption of correctness given to the trial court’s conclusions of law. See State v. Williams, 38 S.W.3d 532, 535 (Tenn. 2001) (indicating that the construction of statutes and the application of the law to the facts are questions of law); see also Guiliano v. Cleo, Inc., 995 S.W.2d 88, 95 (Tenn. 1999) (holding that “[t]he interpretation of a contract is a matter of law that requires a de novo review on appeal”).

Bailey v. FirstBank, No. M2020-00837-COA-R3-CV, p. 7 (Tenn. Ct App. May 27, 2022).

Tennessee courts have no discretion “to deny an award of fees mandated by a valid and enforceable agreement between the parties.” Eberbach v. Eberbach, 535 S.W.3d 467, 479 (Tenn. 2017).

We review FirstBank’s contractual claim de novo. Whether a party is entitled to attorney’s fees based on a written agreement is a question of law. Id. at 479 n.7.


Neff v. Wood, No. M2020-00748-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 27, 2022).

The Neffs argue that they are entitled to recover their attorney’s fees based on the Easement Agreement. See Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. v. Epperson, 284 S.W.3d 303, 308 (Tenn. 2009) (explaining that a litigant may recover attorney’s fees if a contract “creates a right to recover attorney’s fees”). Whether the Neffs are entitled to an award of attorney’s fees on this basis is a question of law, which we review de novo. See id.; see also Eberbach v. Eberbach, 535 S.W.3d 467, 479 (Tenn. 2017) (holding that “our courts do not have discretion to deny an award of fees mandated by a valid and enforceable agreement between the parties”).



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