Committee Approves Bill to Limit Frivolous Lawsuits
by Lamar Smith on July 8, 2011 at 8:41 AM
The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation to reduce frivolous lawsuits that plague our legal system and restore sanctions against attorneys who file meritless suits in federal court. The Committee favorably reported H.R. 966, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (LARA), by a vote of 20-13.
Federal rules mandating sanctions for frivolous suits were watered down in 1993, resulting in the current crisis of widespread lawsuit abuse. LARA restores accountability for attorneys by reinstating monetary sanctions against lawyers who file frivolous suits.
The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act is just over a page long, but it would prevent the filing of hundreds of thousands of pages of frivolous legal pleadings in federal court. Lawsuit abuse has become too common in American society partly because the lawyers who bring these cases have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Plaintiffs’ lawyers can file frivolous suits, no matter how absurd the claims, without any penalty. Meanwhile defendants are faced with the choice of years of litigation, high court costs and attorneys’ fees or a settlement. Many of these cases have cost innocent people and business owners their reputations and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act restores accountability to our legal system by reinstating mandatory sanctions for attorneys who file meritless suits. Though LARA will not stop all lawsuit abuse, it encourages attorneys to think twice before filing a frivolous lawsuit.
LARA takes three strong steps to help thwart frivolous lawsuits:
- Reinstates the requirement that if there is a violation of Rule 11, there are sanctions (Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure was originally intended to deter frivolous lawsuits by sanctioning the offending party).
- Requires that judges impose monetary sanctions against lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits. Those monetary sanctions will include the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the victim of the frivolous lawsuit.
- Reverses the 1993 amendments to Rule 11 that allow parties and their attorneys to avoid sanctions for making frivolous claims by withdrawing them within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been served.