Yeah, I think you're right. Alright, then. The question has to do with Florida condominium law. I live in a condominium in Florida. I've lived there for decades. Recently, they sent me a "violation" note for a behavior that's completely harmless, that several other owners do, and that I have been doing since I moved in back in the 90s. I didn't read the letter until a month later, by which time they had sent me a second notice, this time threatening to fine me up to $1,000 and forcing me to pay for their legal costs.
The tone of the second letter scolded me as thought I were a naughty child. It was a form letter with the offense written near the top. It was undoubtedly designed to intimidate people out of thoughts of resistance.
This started me thinking about the situation. I might be willing to get a lawyer and spend even as much as a few thousand dollars to stop someone from bullying me, but paying for their
expensive lawyers, who might charge hundreds of dollars per hour, is something else again. Paying $5,ooo for my own lawyer is one thing - if it went that far - but paying another $10,000 for their lawyer is something else. That's $15,000. In the case of a protracted court fight, I could see the total running higher than that.
But I thought it was probably an empty threat. In Europe, the loser of a civil court case can be forced to pay both sides' legal expenses. In a system like that, what non-wealthy individual would ever risk suing a misbehaving corporation and risk paying the corporation's lawyers and being ruined for life? Even if he were in the right, it would be a horrible risk. But in America, each side is responsible for its own legal expenses. However, then I discovered that in Florida law regarding homeowners' associations, there are two separate legal provisions that state that the prevailing party may collect legal expenses from the loser. I believe they are statutes 718.303(1) and 720.305.
I'm sure they were rationalized as being a way to reduce frivolous nuisance law suits, but what a chilling effect they must have on homeowners who have actually been wronged by their homeowners' association. What person who isn't rich would be willing to risk paying $15,000 or $20,000 for daring to challenge his HOA (homeowners' association)? Maybe if I were younger, I would have time during my life to recover, but I'm just a couple of years from retirement.
If you take this thought to its logical conclusion, even if an HOA behaved outrageously, sure you'd think you would win in court, but if, by some chance, perhaps a technicality, the HOA prevailed, the homeowner might find himself owing tens of thousands of dollars. What person who knew that it is a "loser pays" system and is not wealthy would take even a 5% chance of this happening? The HOA could even falsely claim that they saw you doing something you never did and fine you for it - repeatedly. What are you going to do, take them to court knowing that you could end up paying both sides' legal fees? Even if you were in the right, you could still lose in court. It seems like you would have a choice between moving out or facing an expense which would severely damage your life.
Is this analysis wrong?