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Mr. Bandaries filed a Petition Seeking Return of Funds Advanced to Defendant to Maintain Her Real Property, in the Natchitoches Parish City Court, naming Ms. Cassidy as a Defendant. Ms. Cassidy responded with an Exception of Lis Pendens and Motion for Sanctions wherein she asserted:
That the sums prayed for in the instant suit are already at issue in a case between the same parties herein pending in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, namely, Madro Bandaries v. Joanna Cassidy, No. 2010–2840, Division “E” c/w Joanna Cassidy v. Madro Bandaries, No. 2010–2781, Division “I.” (hereinafter “CDC suit”). Additionally, the sums prayed for in the instant suit were also prayed for in Bandaries v. Cassidy, 10th JDC No. 83345, Section “B”, (hereinafter “10th JDC suit”), however, that case was dismissed on an Exception of Lis Pendens.
Additionally, in support of her request for sanctions, Ms. Cassidy asserted that “[t]his lawsuit constitutes an abuse of process as it is clearly intended to harass and impoverish Ms. Cassidy” contending that these actions justified the imposition of sanctions against Mr. Bandaries.
Following a hearing on November 10, 2010, the trial court sustained Ms. Cassidy’s exception of lis pendens, dismissed the claims asserted against her, and ordered Mr. Bandaries to pay her $2,500.00 in sanctions plus costs.
This sounds complicated but is it really? Here is the bottom line:
Mr. Bandaries asserts on appeal that the trial court erred in awarding $2,500.00 in sanctions. He argues that “he was not barred from filing another suit as the ‘dismissed suit’ [ (the 10th JDC suit) ] used for lis pendens purposes was dismissed without prejudice.” Because he was not procedurally precluded from filing the instant action, he concludes “there can be no sanctionable activity.” We disagree.
In its Reasons for Judgment, the trial court discussed the exception of lis pendens which was granted in the 10th JDC suit; however, its imposition of sanctions was not based upon the disposition of that action. To the contrary, the trial court expressly noted that “[i]t is also clear from the various pleadings in this matter that there is much more going on in a personal way, either between [Mr. Bandaries] and [Ms. Cassidy] or [Mr. Bandaries], as a lawyer, and the lawyers for [Ms. Cassidy], than merely trying to get a money judgment.”
The trial court then held “that [Mr.] Bandaries violated [La.Code Civ.P. art. 863] and that the petition in this matter was filed against [Ms. Cassidy] for the improper purpose of harassment and to increase her legal costs.”
Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 863 provides:
A. Every pleading of a party represented by an attorney shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in his individual name, whose address shall be stated. A party who is not represented by an attorney shall sign his pleading and state his address.
B. Pleadings need not be verified or accompanied by affidavit or certificate, except as otherwise provided by law, but the signature of an attorney or party shall constitute a certification by him that he has read the pleading, and that to the best of his knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry, he certifies all of the following:
(1) The pleading is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.
(2) Each claim, defense, or other legal assertion in the pleading is warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.
(3) Each allegation or other factual assertion in the pleading has evidentiary support or, for a specifically identified allegation or factual assertion, is likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.
(4) Each denial in the pleading of a factual assertion is warranted by the evidence or, for a specifically identified denial, is reasonably based on a lack of information or belief.
C. If a pleading is not signed, it shall be stricken unless promptly signed after the omission is called to the attention of the pleader.
D. If, upon motion of any party or upon its own motion, the court determines that a certification has been made in violation of the provisions of this Article, the court shall impose upon the person who made the certification or the represented party, or both, an appropriate sanction which may include an order to pay to the other party the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred because of the filing of the pleading, including reasonable attorney fees.
E. A sanction authorized in Paragraph D shall be imposed only after a hearing at which any party or his counsel may present any evidence or argument relevant to the issue of imposition of the sanction.
F. A sanction authorized in Paragraph D shall not be imposed with respect to an original petition which is filed within sixty days of an applicable prescriptive date and then voluntarily dismissed within ninety days after its filing or on the date of a hearing on the pleading, whichever is earlier.
G. If the court imposes a sanction, it shall describe the conduct determined to constitute a violation of the provisions of this Article and explain the basis for the sanction imposed.
The standard of appellate review of the imposition of sanctions is that of abuse of discretion. Bentley v. Fanguy, 09–822 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/6/10), 48 So.3d 381,writ[3 Cir. 10]denied,10–2854 (La.2/25/11), 58 So.3d 457 (citing Collins v. Ferrellgas, Inc., 96–810 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/5/97), 689 So.2d 569). While we recognize that sanctions are not to be imposed lightly, we find no abuse of the trial court’s discretion in the imposition of $2,500.00 in sanctions in the present case. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court ordering Mr. Bandaries to pay $2,500.00 in sanctions to Ms. Cassidy.