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After a three-year battle, Setliff Law attorneys John Burke and Ryan Furgurson obtained dismissal of a multi-count complaint against their real estate developer client who was sued for several million dollars for, among other things, alleged breaches of duty as a member and manager of a limited liability company, breach of contract, fraud, conspiracy, and unjust enrichment.  In addition, John and Ryan obtained an award of $148,860 in sanctions pursuant to Va. Code § 8.01-271.1 against the plaintiff and his counsel.

The Supreme Court of Virginia denied plaintiff’s appeal regarding the dismissal of the substantive claims, but granted an appeal with respect to the sanctions award.  In November, 2015, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s award of sanctions on the ground that the claim for which sanctions were imposed against the plaintiff was made for the improper purpose of intimidating the defendant.

This ruling is significant, because it is the first time the Supreme Court of Virginia has affirmed an award of sanctions based on a claim which had not been found to be legally deficient.  (The particular claim for which sanctions were awarded against plaintiff had survived a demurrer and a motion for summary judgment, but was ultimately voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff shortly before trial.)  One prominent appellate commentator has described the Supreme Court’s opinion as “required reading for anyone who sets foot inside a courtroom.”