Legal Memorandum: Award of Sanctions in MT

Issue: When are sanctions awarded under Rule 11 of the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Sanctions; Attorney; Rule 11 of the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure
Jurisdiction: Montana
Cited Cases: 5 P.3d 1026; 9 P.3d 607; 788 P.2d 324; 506 P.2d 1375; 782 P.2d 78
Cited Statutes: Rule 11 of the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure; Rule 1 of the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure
Date: 04/01/2001

           The purpose of the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure is to "secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action."  See Rule 1.  When litigants and their attorneys abuse the rules they are subject to sanctions.  See Sullivan, 268 Mont. at 77, 885 P.2d at 492.  However, sanctions should not be imposed when a party and his or her counsel act in good faith in pursuing litigation.  See Smith v. Barrett, 242 Mont. 37, 43, 788 P.2d 324, 328 (1990).

Rule 11 states that when an attorney signs a pleading, he or she is thereby certifying that

it is well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification or reversal of existing law, and that it is not interposed for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation.

Rule 11; See Smith v. Barrett 242 Mont. at 43, 788 P.2d 324, 328. 

Rule 11 sanctions are properly awarded when a litigant acts in bad faith and willfully refuses to comply with discovery orders.  See Bulen v. Navajo Refining Co., 9 P.3d 607, 616 (Mont. 2000).  Similarly, sanctions may be awarded when a plaintiff and counsel file […]

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