May 8, 2008
Excessive Sanctions Overturned
The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that sanctions were improperly imposed against an attorney who had violated confidentiality provisions of the Mediation Act by disclosing protected information in a pleading. The court concluded:
The passenger's counsel did not disclose the settlement offer before a jury or even to Judge Lucas, who was presiding over the trial. He made the offending disclosure in a motion for sanctions filed with Judge Hetherington. His disclosure could not possibly have affected the insurer's liability on the underlying claim. While Judge Hetherington did conduct a hearing on the parties' motions for sanctions, the passenger was never given an opportunity to withdraw or amend his motion for sanctions. Imposition of sanctions under these circumstances was premature and excessive. Because the trial court had no authority to sanction the passenger's counsel under §2011(C)(a) and an order of sanctions under the circumstances of the cause was an excessive extension of the trial court's inherent powers, the trial court abused its discretion by sanctioning the passenger's counsel.
The sanction was $2500. The case arose out of an intersection collision. (Mike Frisch)
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