E.D. Pa. 1994
Facts & Procedural History
Plaintiff brought an action against defendant under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that defendant dismissed him from his job as a result of a disability. The lower court dismissed plaintiff’s complaint without prejudice for failure to exhaust administrative remedies before filing the action. Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the action had already commenced. Defendant moved for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11.
Did plaintiff’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies justify Rule 11 sanctions?
Holding / Rule
No. Under Rule 11, counsel’s signature of a document filed with the court certifies that it is supported by a reasonable factual investigation and a normally competent level of legal research. Rule 11 is violated only if, at the time of signing, the signing of the document was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances.
Plaintiff’s counsel did not display a competent level of legal research as a brief review of case law would have revealed the requirement to first file a charge with the EEOC. However, Rule 11 is not intended as a general fee-shifting device. The primary purpose of Rule 11 sanctions is deterrence of improper conduct, which is not necessary here. Plaintiff’s counsel immediately acknowledged the error and attempted to rectify the situation by filing a charge with the EEOC and the complaint was been dismissed without prejudice. Moreover, Rule 11 sanctions should be reserved for “those exceptional circumstances where the claim asserted is patently unmeritorious or frivolous,” not a procedural mistake like the one at issue in this case.