Category: Rule 11 Sanctions

Federal Court Sanctions Attorney For Time-Barred Lawsuit


The case is Doe v. Albuquerque Public Schools, 18 cv 85 (D. New Mexico April 3, 2019). Plaintiff claimed that she was raped by one of the defendants when she was a student. The rape claim was alleged under 42 USC Section 1983. Unfortunately for the plaintiff the her claims were time-barred and the court entered judgment for the defendants.

Because the Defendant did not comply with the Rule 11 safe harbor (giving 21 days to the other side to withdraw the pleading), the Rule 11 motion was denied.

The court, however, elected to award sections pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1927 because it should have been clear to the lawyer for plaintiff that the claims were time-barred. The court explained its ruling in this passage of the opinion:

The Court agrees with Defendant’s counsel that Plaintiff’s counsel failed to stop, think and investigate before filing the complaint, and the Court finds that sanctions under 28 U.S.C. §1927 are appropriate in order to deter such a cavalier approach to litigation. The Court is guided in particular by the heinous nature of the alleged acts, and acknowledges the damaging effect such acts can have on victims in general.

The complaint in this case alleges horrendous acts of sexual abuse perpetrated by Defendant upon the Plaintiff which occurred approximately twenty years ago but allegedly were only discovered by Plaintiff in 2014 through therapy. While the Court is mindful of the damage that can be done to victims of sexual abuse, the Court also acknowledges that there are occasions when defendants are falsely accused in these types of cases. Under these circumstances, Plaintiff’s counsel was obliged to exercise vigilance and thoroughness before filing a complaint of this nature, but instead, counsel forged ahead without caution or care and filed a complaint on behalf of an anonymous Plaintiff accusing Defendant Beems of terrible conduct that supposedly happened many years ago but surfaced for the first time in 2018 when the complaint was filed as a public document.

In bringing these federal claims and in failing to adequately examine the claims before filing the case, counsel for Plaintiff has shown an indifference to the law that saddled the opposing party, Mr. Beems, with unproven allegations that may follow him for years. This is not to say that Plaintiff’s claims were frivolous, but they do not need to be frivolous to warrant sanctions under §1927. See Mark Ind., Ltd. v. Sea Captain’s Choice, Inc., 50 F.3d at 732. Unmindful of the possible consequences, Plaintiff’s counsel proceeded to include federal claims in the complaint without seriously examining them to see whether they were viable even on threshold timeliness issues. In doing so and in continuing to pursue these claims, Plaintiff’s counsel’s zealousness in representing his client gave way to recklessness, which in turn led to conduct that is proscribed by §1927.

Ed Clinton, Jr.

The Clinton Law Firm

Sanctions Awarded For Frivolous Counterclaim

In Patent Infringement Lawsuit, Sanctions Claims Fall Flat


The case is Dynamic Applet Technologies, LLC v. Mattress Firm, Inc. 17-cv-860 (E.D. Texas March 26, 2019).  Dynamic sued Mattress Firm for patent infringement. Mattress Firm filed counterclaims. Both sides moved for sanctions. Mattress Firm argued that Dynamic’s patent infringement claims were frivolous and brought in bad faith and merited Rule 11 sanctions. Dynamic moved for sanctions against Mattress Firm.

The Court, noting that it had not issued any dispositive rulings on any motions, denied both sanctions motions. The court found that there were non-frivolous claims of patent infringement asserted in the complaint. The explanation follows:

With respect to Defendants’ Motion for Sanctions (Dkt. 90) and Plaintiff’s Responsive Motion for Sanctions (Dkt. 96), there is nothing before the Court to indicate that sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 are justified here. Rule 11 is inappropriate if there is a good faith basis to assert even a single claim of a patent. View Eng’g, Inc. v. Robotic Vision Sys., Inc., 208 F.3d 981, 986 (Fed. Cir. 2000) (“Rule 11 . . . must be interpreted to require the law firm to . . . apply the claims of each and every patent that is being brought into the lawsuit to an accused device and conclude that there is a reasonable basis for a finding of infringement of at least one claim of each patent so asserted.”). The Court finds that Plaintiff’s overall pre-suit inquiry was reasonable and its conduct does not cross the Rule 11 sanctions threshold whereby “no reasonable litigant could believe it would succeed” on the merits. Raylon, LLC v. Complus Data Innovations, Inc., 700 F.3d 1361, 1368 (Fed. Cir.2012)iLor, LLC v. Google, Inc., 631 F.3d 1372, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2011). Applying the same standard to Plaintiff’s Responsive Motion for Sanctions (Dkt. 96), the Court finds that Defendants have likewise not violated Rule 11. The Court is not charged with determining which party’s position is correct, but rather, is charged with determining whether a motion crosses the threshold of frivolousness such that no reasonable litigant could believe it would succeed. See Raylon v. Complus Data, 700 F.3d at 1368. Accordingly, no sanctions will be awarded to either party at this time. If appropriate, the parties may refile a motion for sanctions after the Court rules on the pending dispositive motions.

In other words, one party would have to obtain dismissal of one of the other party’s claims before it could move for sanctions. The sanctions motions here may prove meritorious at a later date if the court actually finds that one of the claims is frivolous or unfounded.

Ed Clinton, Jr.

The Clinton Law Firm