Re: Honest question - is the loser not ordered to pay costs in US civil cases?
Nope, usually both sides pay their own freight for lawyers.
Now, the judge can order one side or the other to pay some or all of the legal fees in a case, but that rarely happens. I think it requires proof of egregious misuse of the legal system, which for some odd reason seems impossible to get in an arena where $13 million legal bills are common.
Now, I can see some justification in not always making the loser pay. If you're the little guy and the big guy hires expensive lawyers to shake you down, it could encourage you to settle regardless of where you think you stand because you're afraid you'll just lose in court anyway and then have to additionally pay their lawyers fees.
The problem is, you need judges who are trusted to render impartial decisions, and none of us believe we have those kinds of judges anymore.