Litigation tactics designed to bully, harass, intimidate, or embarrass an opponent or opposing counsel are not permitted in Virginia courts. While litigants may gain great satisfaction from the knowledge that their lawsuit or counterclaim is causing the other side a great deal of expense and inconvenience, if the primary goal of the litigation is to cause pain, rather than vindicate legitimate legal rights, courts have the authority to impose sanctions. Notably, this is true even if the claim has merit. So held the Virginia Supreme Court on November 12, 2015, in Kambis v. Considine.
Most lawyers associate Va. Code § 8.01-271.1 (the state-level equivalent of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure) with frivolous pleadings – pleadings completely devoid of merit, unsupported by any foundation in law or fact, and having no reasonable chance of success. Lawyers know that if they file a complaint based on fanciful factual allegations and outdated legal citations, they can be sanctioned and ordered to reimburse the other party for legal fees incurred in having to respond. What’s noteworthy about the Kambis case is that it focused on the “improper purpose” prong of the sanctions test and clarified that sanctions may be awarded even if a pleading presents a valid claim fully supported by the facts and the law.