Duhaime's Law Dictionary

ABC Rule Definition:

An equitable exception to the general rule that attorney fees are not awarded, and which allows an award of attorney fees as consequential damages.

(USA) The rule was explained by Justice in Tradewell:

"The rule in Washington is that absent a contract, statute, or recognized ground of equity, attorney fees will not be awarded as part of the costs of litigation.

"One of the recognized equitable grounds under which fees can be awarded is the theory of equitable indemnity. Under this theory, the court may award fees where the natural and proximate consequences of a defendant's wrongful act put the plaintiff in litigation with others and the action generating the expense is instituted by a third party not connected with the original transaction.

"In general, three elements are necessary to create liability which, applied here, would require: (1) A wrongful act or omission by A toward B; (2) such act or omission exposes or involves B in litigation with C; and (3) C was not connected with the initial transaction or event, viz., the wrongful act or omission of A toward B."

In Jain, Justice Baker referred to the rule as the ABC Rule.


  • Jain v. JP Morgan Securities, 177 P. 3d 117 (Court of Appeals of Washington, 2008)
  • Tradewell Group v. Mavis, 857 P. 2d 1053 (Court of Appeals of Washington, 1993)

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