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Fuller v. D.L. Peterson Trust Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

September 24, 2019

MCLAWRENCE FULLER
v.
D.L. PETERSON TRUST CO., ET AL.

          HAYES JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR., CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court is a Motion for Sanctions (Record Document 124) filed by Plaintiffs-in-Concursus, Adam M. Keys, National Oilwell Varco, L.P., D.L. Peterson Trust Company and National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA (collectively “Plaintiffs-in-Concursus” or “Defendants”). Defendants request the Court to impose sanctions against S.P. Davis, Sr., the Davis Law Office, L.L.C., and McLawrence Fuller (collectively “Defendants-in-Concursus” or “Plaintiffs”) for violating Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. The Defendants are also seeking relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927 against Plaintiffs’ counsel. For the following reasons, the Defendants’ Motion for Sanctions is DENIED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This matter arose out of a motor vehicle accident involving Adam Keys and McLawrence Fuller (“Fuller”) on September 27, 2010 in DeSoto Parish. See Record Document 118 at 2. Fuller brought suit against the Defendants in Louisiana’s 42nd Judicial District Court. See id. In March 2015, following a jury trial only on the issue of damages, the jury awarded Fuller a $375, 835.58 judgment, including an award of interest, costs, expert witness fees, and medical record fees. See Record Document 103-2. The judgment became final on January 9, 2017 when the Louisiana Supreme Court denied writs of certiorari. See Record Document 131 at 2.

         During the pendency of this suit, Defendants learned that various persons and entities asserted liens for sums paid on behalf of, or for services rendered to, Fuller pertaining to the case. See id. Because of the multiple claims to the judgment, Defendants filed a petition for concursus on February 9, 2017 in the personal injury suit. See id. The following day after the concursus was filed, the state court signed a proposed order submitted by Defendants which permitted them to deposit $429, 502.84 into the Court’s registry. See Record Document 20-14 at 22. The concursus proceeding was ultimately removed to this Court by the United States, one of the defendants-in-concursus, in March 2017. See Record Document 131 at 3.

         Despite extensive motion practice in this matter, only two motions are relevant for this ruling. First, on June 28, 2018, Davis Law Firm filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting their claim to 40% of the proceeds of the judgment and other fees associated with trial. See Record Document 104. Defendants opposed this motion, arguing Davis Law Firm was seeking recovery of medical record fees that Defendant had already paid. See Record Document 118. The motion for summary judgment was denied as moot upon this Court’s order for disbursement of all remaining funds in the Court’s registry. See Record Document 130.

         The second relevant motion is the Motion for Deposit of Additional Funds also filed June 28, 2018 by Davis Law Firm and Fuller. See Record Document 103. In the motion, Plaintiffs sought the Court to order the Defendants to deposit into the Court’s registry an additional sum of $40, 542.48, of which included $27, 496.52 in unpaid judicial interest, $9, 334.50 in medical expert fees, and $729.47 in medical record expenses. See Record Document 103-1 at 4-5. On December 28, 2018, this Court adopted the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Hayes finding Defendants liable for $27, 496.52 unpaid judicial interest. See Record Document 132.

         The Defendants deposited the additional judicial interest, and the interpleader action was fully disbursed on January 18, 2019. See Record Document 134. The only matter remaining before the Court is the instant motion for sanctions filed by Defendants on September 14, 2018. See Record Document 124. Plaintiffs opposed the motion on September 28, 2018. See Record Document 126. Defendants’ replied to the opposition on October 4, 2018. See Record Document 127.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. Sanctions Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11

         A. Rule 11 Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(a) requires every pleading, written motion, or other paper to be signed by an attorney of record. The signature serves as a representation to the court that all claims are well-grounded in fact and law, and the filings are not being presented for any improper purpose. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b)(1)-(3). Rule 11(c) allows the court to impose an “appropriate sanction” on “any attorney, law firm, or party that violated the rule or is responsible for the violation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c)(1). The purpose of Rule 11 is to “deter baseless filings in district court” and “streamline the administration and procedure of the federal courts.” Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 393, 110 S.Ct. 2447, 2454 (1990).

         B. Summary of Defendant’s Argument ...


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