Sanctions

Chapman v. Twin City Fire Ins. Co. [12/20/10] 2010 MTWCC 36 Where Petitioner failed to prove an entitlement to benefits, her motion for sanctions against opposing counsel for failing to mount a defense is without merit.
Briese v. Ace American Ins. Co. [02/20/09] 2009 MTWCC 5 While the Court was not persuaded by Petitioner’s arguments with respect to the wage calculation issue, the arguments advanced by Petitioner were plausible and were not interposed for any improper purpose. Therefore, Petitioner and his attorney did not act in such a way as to warrant sanctions.
Montana State Fund v. Simms [08/04/08] 2008 MTWCC 39 Respondent’s attorney violated § 39-71-2914, MCA, when he pursued the case, demanded the Court’s time, and required parties to submit to depositions and produce discovery when he knew that he had a conflict of interest and would be forced to withdraw as counsel. Counsel further misrepresented his reasons for withdrawing his representation when he pled that it was based on “newly discovered evidence” when he later admitted that he knew of the potential conflict of interest at the outset of the case and chose to remain counsel because he thought he could get the matter dismissed. While I agree withdrawing his representation based on the potential conflict was a judgment call, counsel continued to pursue the case for several weeks after I denied the motion to dismiss, causing Petitioner, Petitioner’s counsel and this Court to expend time and resources needlessly. A sanction paid to Petitioner by Respondent’s counsel, with the cost not to be passed on to Respondent himself, is ordered.
Beaulieu v. Human Dynamics Corp. [9/22/04] 2004 MTWCC 65 Where a party takes a position that absolutely contradicts the position it took in two prior actions, and there is no factual or legal basis for their position, sanctions are appropriate and are imposed. 39-71-2914, MCA (1987-2003).
Blaylock v. Montana State Fund [6/30/04] 2004 MTWCC 54 The Workers' Compensation Court has no jurisdiction to sanction or penalize an employer for failure to provide a claimant with documents he requests except where the documents are sought in discovery and the employer violates discovery orders or rules governing discovery.
O'Brien v. State Fund [6/16/98] 1998 MTWCC 52 Sanctions ordered pursuant to section 39-71-2914, MCA (1991), but ordered against State Fund, not in-house counsel representing the insurer. While it may have been reasonable for the insurer to assert an equitable subrogation interest in a medical malpractice recovery under the circumstances alleged by the insurer, the insurer asserted that interest without consideration of whether claimant had been made whole for his entire loss, a position without basis under statutes and Supreme Court precedent. Sanctions consist of reasonable attorneys fees and costs, along with a penalty consisting of ten percent per annum interest on the amount of the medical malpractice recovery State Fund argued it would take in settlement of its subrogation claim.
S.L.H. v. State Fund [12/28/00] 2000 MT 362 An insurer's claim for subrogation not supported in fact or law warrants imposition of sanctions under section 39-71-2914, MCA (1991) against the represented party, the attorney, or both. Although the statute permits the judge discretion to choose appropriate sanctions, the imposition of sanctions is not discretionary where the judge finds that section 39-71-2914, MCA (1991) has been violated.

Where counsel for an insurer admits the insurer had no legal authority or factual theory to support its claim for subrogation, and that it had completed no investigation whatsoever to support its subrogation claim, the workers' compensation court, upon its own initiative, should impose sanctions for violation of section 39-71-2914, MCA (1991).

O'Brien v. State Fund [2/10/98] 1998 MTWCC 6 Where section 39-71-2907, MCA, refers to unreasonable delay in payment of "benefits," insurer's conduct in causing delay in release of third-party settlement proceeds does not give rise to a statutory penalty. However, sanctions under section 39-71-2914, MCA (1991), a statutory version of Rule 11, are available in workers' compensation proceedings. Claimant may be entitled to sanctions where State Fund's assertion of "equittable subrogation" in claimant's recovery in a third-party malpractice case, maintained in its response to petition, but abruptly dropped prior to trial, raises a prima facie issue as to whether the assertion was well founded and in good faith. Because the facts on that issue are insufficiently developed, a briefing schedule and hearing on sanctions was set.
Jacques v. Borden, Inc. [3/20/97] 1997 MTWCC 14 An attorney for a corporate respondent insurer may sign interrogatory answers. While the rules of the Workers' Compensation Court make no provision for signature by an attorney for a corporation on interrogatory answers, precedent of federal courts, under rules identical to the M.R.Civ.Pro., allows an attorney to sign such answers. Moreover, under ARM 24.5.303(7), an attorney's signature to any document in the WCC is his/her certification that it is made to the best of his/her knowledge, information and belief. Sanctions awarded against petitioner's counsel for filing a motion obviously part of "hardball" litigation tactics, not based on any real concern in this particular case.