Fees awarded to plaintiff lawyers in a nationally publicized decision

As Debra Cassens Weiss originally reported for the ABA Journal on October 28, 2014, a plaintiff’s law firm in an employment suit was awarded sanctions after successfully beating back a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 motion for sanctions filed by the defendant. The defendant had moved for sanctions because it believed that the plaintiff’s firm had taken inconsistent positions in filings.

However, the defendant redacted the description of every time entry – making it impossible for the court to review the fee petition for reasonableness and for the plaintiff to challenge any entries. The court held that Rule 11 fees to the defendant were not warranted both because the defense firm’s fee submission was insufficient and because the plaintiff’s actions were not frivolous.

The defendant also failed to give the plaintiff the opportunity to self-correct. Rule 11(c)(2) requires that any Rule 11 motions for sanctions should be served under Rule 5, but should not be filed or presented to the court if the challenged filings are withdrawn or corrected within 21 days. While the defense firm did send a letter to the plaintiff’s counsel pointing out the issue, the letter failed to mention Rule 11 and failed to attach the Rule 11 motion.

Instead, the Court granted the plaintiff’s Motion to award sanctions against the defendant pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927 for multiplying the proceedings. See the ABA’s article and opinions.