United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
SAPA EXTRUSIONS, INC. Plaintiff
LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants
MALACHY E. MANNION, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court are two motions filed by defendant Gerling
Konzern Allegemeine Versicherungs-AG (“Gerling”),
a motion for leave to file a consolidated brief on common
issues of law, (Doc. 261), and a motion for sanctions, (Doc.
262). Because the court finds no basis for suspending the
Local Rules of Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
to allow a consolidated brief addressing unrelated motions,
Gerling's motion for leave to file a consolidated brief
will be DENIED. (Doc. 261). Because the
court finds no exceptional circumstances warranting the
imposition of sanctions, Gerling's motion for sanctions
will be DENIED. (Doc. 262).
plaintiff, Sapa Extrusions, Inc. (“Sapa”),
initiated the instant action on November 19, 2013 against
nine separate insurance companies (collectively, the
“Defendant Insurers”) to recover its costs spent
litigating and ultimately settling an underlying dispute with
Marvin Lumber & Cedar Company and Marvin Windows of
Tennessee, Inc. (collectively, “Marvin”). (Doc.
1). Highly contentious insurance coverage litigation has
September 9, 2016, one of the Defendant Insurers,
Gerling-Konzern Allgemeine Versicherungs-AG
(“Gerling”), filed the instant motions. (Doc.
261; Doc. 262). Gerling's first motion requests
permission to jointly brief both its opposition to Sapa's
motion for partial summary judgment and its newly-filed
motion for sanctions. (Doc. 261). Gerling's second motion
requests that the court impose sanctions on Sapa pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. (Doc. 262).
Motion for Leave to File Consolidated Brief
primary argument in support of its motion to jointly brief
two different motions is that the Local Rules of Court for
the Middle District of Pennsylvania (“Local
Rules”) permit the court “to suspend these Rules
in individual cases by written order.” Local Rule 1.3.
Gerling's proposed basis for suspending the Local Rules
rests on its assertion that its two pending motions address
overlapping issues of law and fact. (Doc. 261). Sapa responds
by contending that the proposed consolidated brief is
inappropriate in these circumstances and violates the Local
Rules. (Doc. 293). The court here agrees with Sapa.
Local Rule 7.8(a), “[a] brief may address only one
motion, ” and “[n]o brief may incorporate by
reference all or any portion of any other brief.”
Gerling's motion seeks leave to file a consolidated brief
that is both supporting its own motion for sanctions under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 and opposing Sapa's motion for partial
summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (Doc. 261). The
parties to a case and their attorneys may face sanctions for
making representations to the court that are “presented
for any improper purpose;” not “warranted by
existing law or . . . a nonfrivolous argument for extending,
modifying, or reversing existing law;” or without
“evidentiary support . . . after a reasonable
opportunity for further investigation or discovery.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b). On the other hand, “[t]he court
shall grant summary judgment if . . . there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact, and the movant is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
applicable legal standards here diverge widely, so the
resulting legal analyses would be substantially dissimilar.
Gerling's assertion that its proposed consolidated brief
would address “common issues” of law is thus
unsupported. The mere fact that Gerling would rely on similar
or overlapping facts in both motions is not in itself a sound
basis for suspending the Local Rules, especially during this
late stage of the litigation. A determination of whether the
evidence and applicable substantive law in this case entitle
Sapa to judgment as a matter of law is a related but still
wholly distinct legal exercise from a determination of
whether Sapa or its attorneys should be subjected to
court-imposed sanctions for improper actions. Intertwining
these two issues would not help simplify or clarify them; it
would amount to additional confusion.
court sees no advantageous basis here for suspending the
Local Rules that would facilitate the Local Rules'
purpose of generating expediency and efficiency in the
litigation process. Granting a consolidated brief at this
late phase of the litigation merely risks further confusing
Motion for Sanctions
motion for sanctions, Gerling argues that Sapa failed to
conduct a reasonable investigation into the facts and law,
asserted factually frivolous claims against Gerling, and
knowingly made false factual representations to this court.
(Doc. 262). “By presenting to the court a pleading,
written motion, or other paper . . . an attorney or
unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the
person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after
an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances: (1) it is not
being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass,
cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of
litigation; (2) the claims, defenses, and other legal
contentions are warranted by existing law or by a
nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing
existing law or for establishing new law; (3) the factual
contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so
identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a
reasonable opportunity for further investigation or
discovery; and (4) the denials of factual contentions are
warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified,
are reasonably based on belief or a lack of
information.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b).
Third Circuit has noted that “[f]ormulating a rule
broad enough to curb abusive litigation tactics and misuse of
the court's process but yet not so sweeping as to hinder
zealous advocacy was obviously a formidable task.”
Gaiardo v. Ethyl Corp., 835 F.2d 479, 482 (3d Cir.
1987). The Third Circuit found that Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 imposes
an obligation on attorneys to “Stop, Think,
Investigate, and Research” before filing documents
“to initiate a suit or to conduct the
litigation.” Id. The Third Circuit cautioned,
however, that Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 “is not to be used
routinely when the parties disagree about the correct
resolution of a matter in litigation.” Id. at