A District Court judge in California has granted a defendant’s motion for sanctions under Rule 11 and ordered a plaintiff’s attorney to pay the defendant’s legal bills of more than $27,000 after it was sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for using a fake summons to try and collect on a debt.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Gallego v. Hunt & Henriques can be accessed by clicking here.
This was not the first fake summons that the plaintiff’s attorney had seen that was allegedly sent by the defendant, and the attorney had contacted the defendant, which had confirmed it did not send them. The representative from the defendant even confirmed it did not represent the company listed on the summons — Synchrony Bank. The plaintiff’s attorney, Stanley Apps, had contacted the court and discovered the document was not on the court’s docket. But rather than investigating whether the defendant sent the summons, Apps filed a lawsuit against the defendant accusing it of doing so, according to the ruling issued by Judge Vince Chhabria of the District Court for the Northern District of California.
Even after the lawsuit was filed, there was “no indication” that Apps “made any effort to discern the truth,” according to Judge Chhabria.
“In short, the lawsuit was a complete waste of time and money,” Judge Chhabria wrote. “It was objectively baseless, and that should have been clear to Apps from the start. He made no effort to investigate his theory before he filed the lawsuit, and he made no effort support his allegations as the lawsuit progressed.”
While the motion for sanctions sought to hold Apps and the plaintiff jointly liable, Judge Chhabria said there was no evidence that the plaintiff “understood how baseless the lawsuit was or was otherwise complicit in her counsel’s misconduct.,” and ordered Apps to repay the $27,627.50 himself.