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You’ve Got Mail: PA Jury Verdict Demonstrates Usefulness of Dragonetti Letters

October 7, 2016

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Pennsylvania has a unique method of discouraging frivolous lawsuits and abuse of the legal process known as a “Dragonetti Letter.”  Under the Pennsylvania Dragonnetti Act, a party that notifies its opponent that it has been sued without probable cause or for improper purpose and wins can bring an action for emotional distress, attorneys’ fees and punitive sanctions.
In B<a href="">rown-v-halpern</a>, plaintiff sued attorney John F. Brown Jr. in a trust dispute.  Brown alleged that the suit was frivolous.  The jury awarded Brown $2.3 million (including $1.75 million in punitive damages).  The losing attorney, Mark S. Halpern, had allegedly been told by four different lawyers that his client had fabricated the claims against Mr. Brown, but continued to pursue those claims despite that knowledge.
The lesson of <em>Brown</em> is that it is often prudent for your attorney to issue a Dragonnetti letter to plaintiff’s counsel once it becomes clear a lawsuit is frivolous, as the first step towards a lawsuit under the Dragonnetti Act.  While some plaintiff’s lawyers may frequently be in receipt of these letters, it nevertheless can force a reckoning for plaintiffs about the viability of their case.  If used sparingly and prudently, this tool can be an effective device for curtailing legal costs in certain types of cases prior to engaging in motion practice.
Thanks to Konrad Krebs for his contribution to this post.


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