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PA Statute Penalizing Lawyers For Frivolous Actions Upheld

April 28, 2017

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The Dragonetti Act, a Pennsylvania statute, creates a cause of action against attorneys for frivolous, vindictive, and vexatious lawsuits.  The statute was recently challenged in <em><a href="http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Supreme/out/J-120-2016mo%20-%2010307852017102233.pdf?cb=1">Villani v. Seibert</a>,  </em>a land ownership dispute, where the defendants invoke the statute as a counter to what they believed where baseless claims.  The plaintiff and involved counsel moved to dismiss through preliminary objections, arguing that the legislative act intruded upon the Supreme Court’s exclusive authority to regulate attorney conduct involving the practice of law.  The trial court agreed and dismissed the claims.
On appeal, the Supreme Court found that the intent of the statute was to codify a method to compensate “victims of frivolous and abusive litigation, and therefore, has a strong remedial thrust” as opposed to usurping the role of the judicial system in policing attorney conduct. Additionally, the Court found that this was not an attempt to regulate attorney conduct, rather, this is a law of “general application.”
Thanks to Matthew Care for his contribution to this post and please write to <a href="mailto: mbono@wcmlaw.com">Mike Bono</a> for more information.

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