Legal Memorandum: Award of Sanctions under Rule 11 in WA

Issue: Under Washington court rules, when are sanctions awarded pursuant to Rule 11?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Sanctions; Rule 11
Jurisdiction: Washington
Cited Cases: 876 P.2d 448; 796 F.2d 1165; 969 P.2d 64; 858 P.2d 1054; 803 F.2d 1085; 815 F.2d 575; 829 P.2d 1099; 136 Wn.2d 888; 119 Wn.2d 210; 122 Wn.2d 299
Cited Statutes: CR 11
Date: 04/01/2001

  Rule 11 provides that an attorney’s or party’s signature signifies that he or she has read the pleading, motion or legal memorandum; that to the best of the party’s or attorney’s knowledge, information, and belief, reasonable inquiry 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 cost of litigation.

The trial court has discretion in awarding Rule 11 sanctions but that discretion is not without limits.  On appeal, the award must be set aside if manifestly unreasonable or based on untenable grounds or reasons.  Washington State Physicians Ins. Exch. & Ass’n v. Fissons Corp., 122 Wn.2d 299, 339, 858 P.2d 1054 (1993).

For an application of principles adopted in decisions construing Rule 11, see State ex rel Quick-Ruben v. Verharen, 136 Wn.2d 888, 969 P.2d 64 (1998) (en banc); Biggs v. Vail, 124 Wn.2d 193, 876 P.2d 448 (1994) (en banc) (Biggs II); and Bryant v. Joseph Tree, Inc., 119 Wn.2d 210, 829 P.2d 1099 (1992). 

In Biggs II the court set out certain “requirements” governing the award of fees and sanctions under CR 11.  See Quick-Ruben, 136 Wn.2d at 905, 969 P.2d at 72.  Among them were requirements regarding notice.  Biggs […]

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