Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Simple Mistake, Corrected when Realized, Forms No Ground for Rule 11 Sanctions

Boone v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 23813 (11th Cir. Nov. 30, 2011):

We review a district court's decision regarding sanctions under 28 U.S.C. § 1927 and Rule 11 for an abuse of discretion. Nicholson v. Shafe, 558 F.3d 1266, 1270 (11th Cir. 2009); Jones v. Int'l Riding Helmets, Ltd., 49 F.3d 692, 694 (11th Cir. 1995).

Section § 1927 contains three essential requirements: (1) unreasonable and vexatious conduct; (2) that conduct must multiply the proceedings; and (3) the amount of the sanction must bear a "financial nexus to the excess proceedings." Peterson v. BMI Refractories, 124 F.3d 1386, 1396 (11th Cir. 1997).

Rule 11 permits imposing sanctions on a party that files a pleading that (1) is in bad faith for an improper purpose, such as harassment, delay, or needlessly increasing the cost of litigation, (2) has no reasonable factual basis, or (3) is based on a legal theory with no reasonable chance of success and that cannot be advanced as a reasonable argument to change existing law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b), (c). In analyzing whether Rule 11 sanctions are appropriate, a district court first must determine whether a party's claims are "objectively frivolous" in view of the facts or law. If the court finds they are, it must determine that the person who signed the pleading "should have been aware that they were frivolous; that is, whether he would have been aware had he made a reasonable inquiry." Jones, 49 F.3d at 695. Rule 11 does "not require a showing of subjective bad faith. The bad faith element is determined by objective standards of reasonableness." Patterson v. Aiken, 841 F.2d 386, 387 (11th Cir. 1988).

Here, Boone complains that Chase and McCurdy & Candler should be sanctioned because they filed false documents and submitted exhibits with her unredacted social security number. We agree with the district court that sanctions were not warranted. Boone has offered no evidence to support her allegation that Chase intentionally filed false statements, or that any inaccuracies arose from an intent to deceive, harass, or delay Boone. Additionally, when McCurdy & Candler filed a copy of the HELOC loan agreement, it failed to redact Boone's social security number. As soon as it realized the error, it withdrew the exhibit and filed a redacted copy of the agreement. There is no evidence that McCurdy & Candler acted unreasonably or for an improper purpose. Thus, the district court's denial of sanctions was proper.

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