Claim for reimbursement of costs and fees in civil litigation cases
In the French legal system, reimbursement of legal costs is governed in civil proceedings by two main articles: Section 695 and Section 700 of the civil procedure Act.
In fact a distinction is traditionally drawn between two types of legal costs: on one hand, the “dépens” are regulated by section 695 and correspond to any tax, judicial expertise costs etc.. due in case of judicial actions. In principle its amount does not depend of the value of the dispute. On the other hand, the “Section 700” fees correspond to attorney’s fees, which do not include the fees already granted on the basis of Section 695.
Judges are not necessarily obliged to rule on legal fees, unless they are expressly asked to do so. Moreover, judges may take into account equity before deciding which party will have to reimburse the attorney’s fees of the winning party. It means that a large discretionary power is given to the judge to assess the amount of “Section 700” fees without particular justification. Therefore the final “Section 700” fees awarded do not often correspond to real costs supported by clients. Producing invoices may contribute to justify the amount of “Section 700” fees to be requested by the parties to the judge.
Mostly, the costs of section 700 rely on the person who is also in charge to pay the Section 695 regulated costs. Often the losing party has to pay them. However, the judge may decide to deprive the winning party of his right to obtain reimbursement under section 700.