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Attorney’s Fees and Sanctions Awarded for Vexatious Conduct Where Party Continued to Litigate After Reaching Settlement Agreement with Opposing Party

WALKER v. HEALTH INT’L CORP.: Jan. 6, 2017. Before Reyna, Hughes, and Stoll.

Takeaway:

  • An appellate court can award attorney’s fees and costs as sanctions under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 38 which allows for single or double costs to the appellee if an appeal is frivolous. An appeal is frivolous when “the judgment by the tribunal below was so plainly correct and the legal authority contrary to appellant’s position so clear that there really is no appealable issue.

Procedural Posture:

Walker appealed District of Colorado’s decision awarding sanctions.  CAFC affirmed the district court judgment and awarded additional sanctions for a frivolous appeal.

Synopsis:

  • Attorney’s Fees and Sanctions: Under 10th Circuit law, a district court can award attorney’s fees when a party has acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons. An appellate court can award attorney’s fees and costs as sanctions under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 38 which allows for single or double costs to the appellee if an appeal is frivolous. An appeal is frivolous when “the judgment by the tribunal below was so plainly correct and the legal authority contrary to appellants position so clear that there really is no appealable issue. Appellant engaged in vexatious conduct at the district court when it continued to litigate after an agreement was reached between the parties clearly dismissing the suit. In his appeal, Appellant argued that the district court’s award of attorney’s fees was improper because he was the prevailing party that compelled voluntary change in the other party’s conduct. This “catalyst theory” of attorney’s fees has been rejected by the courts, and Appellant mischaracterized clear authority many times during appeal. Thus, the CAFC affirmed the district court’s award and imposed its own sanctions. In addition, Appellant’s attorney was held jointly and severably liable for the damages assessed.

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Paul T. Qualey, Andrews Kurth, Software technologies Lawyer, Patent litigation Attorney
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Paul has experience in a variety of areas of intellectual property law with a particular emphasis on patent litigation in trial and appellate courts and at the International Trade Commission. Paul has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in patent infringement cases involving a broad range of technologies in the software, telecommunications, automotive and construction industries. His clients have included Lenovo, Sony, GAF Materials Corp., and DaimlerChrysler, among others.

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Zaed has a decade of experience with patent litigation in U.S. District Courts and the U.S. International Trade Commission. He also has substantial experience with inter partes review proceedings in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and with appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Zaed’s litigation responsibilities include taking and defending fact and expert depositions, writing motions and briefs, examining witnesses at trial, and preparing witnesses for deposition and trial. His recent litigations involved a wide range of technologies, including smartphones and tablets, digital cameras and camcorders, video and image processing software, GPS systems, narcotics and explosives trace detection security systems, and DVD and Blu-ray technology.

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