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Sanctions for Frivolous Lawsuits

Sanctions for Frivolous Lawsuits

Although the procedure is different, under the law in both the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland, trial courts may award monetary sanctions for frivolous litigation. In Maryland, the decision is controlled by Maryland Rule 1-341, which provides:

In any civil action, if the court finds that the conduct of any party in maintaining or defending any proceeding was in bad faith or without substantial justification the court may require the offending party or the attorney advising the conduct or both of them to pay to the adverse party the costs of the proceeding and the reasonable expenses, including reasonable attorney’s fees, incurred by the adverse party in opposing it.”

Example of Frivolous Litigation Sanction Case in Maryland

Recently, in Worsham v. Greenfield, 2013 Md. LEXIS 823 (2013) the Maryland Court of Appeals had a chance to consider whether an award of sanctions under Maryland Rule 1-341 were allowed in a case where the Defendant did not actually “incur” any legal fees because defense costs were paid by the Defendant’s insurance carrier. While the Court’s decision in Worsham turned in large part on the meaning of the word “incur,” also relevant to the Court’s consideration was the purpose behind Maryland Rule 1-341. As the Court went on to recognize, “[t]he imposition of sanctions is to deter litigation that clearly lacks merit . . . Rule 1-341 is not intended to simply shift litigation expenses based on relative fault. Its purpose is to deter unnecessary and abusive litigation.” Id. Ultimately, the Worsham Court concluded that an award of attorneys’ fees was appropriate regardless of whether the Defendant personally “incurred” any fees.

Attorneys Against Frivolous Lawsuits

Without doubt obtaining sanctions, even in cases involving frivolous claims, remains a daunting challenge because most courts are loath to enter such awards. That said, Worsham at least clears the way for such awards to be levied when warranted notwithstanding the existence of insurance coverage. For more information on ways to successfully defend against cases involving frivolous litigation, please contact the attorneys at Walker, Murphy & Nelson, LLP.

Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only. Nothing contained herein constitutes legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. All persons reviewing this should consult counsel for advice regarding any specific legal questions and any unauthorized use of this information is expressly prohibited.