Judges allocate "frivolous" sanctions between attorney and plaintiff
Thomas Charboneau filed suit against an insurance agency on behalf of a "Novus" entity that didn't actually exist on the date it was allegedly wronged. Apparently there was a confusion of entities operating under that blanket name. In any event, the action was dismissed when the Novus principal disclosed the post-filing incorporation date at a deposition. The Defendants then sought sanctions against Charboneau and Novus for filing a frivolous action. They were awarded $130,000.00 by the trial judge, with Charboneau accountable for only $6,500.
The Defendants appealed, arguing that the sanctions should be "joint and several" with Charboneau obligated to pay the full amount. The Appeals Court rejected the claim that sanctions must be joint and several. It noted that the statutory language did not specify whether sanctions should be joint or pro rata and that the previous courts addressing the issue had deemed this a matter of discretion for the judge. Since Charboneau had prior dealings with Novus and did not learn of the incorporation date until the depostion, the trial judge's allocation was deemed reasonable.