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Albright v. Upjohn Co. - 788 F.2d 1217 (6th Cir. 1986)

Rule:

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 provides that every pleading, motion, and other paper of a party represented by an attorney shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in his individual name, whose address shall be stated. The signature of an attorney or party constitutes a certificate by him that he has read the pleading, motion, or other paper; that to the best of his knowledge, information and belief formed after reasonable inquiry it is well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law, and that it is not interposed for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation.

Facts:

On Sept. 21, 1983, attorneys for plaintiff-appellee Robin Bright filed a products liability action in federal district court against nine pharmaceutical manufacturers and unknown defendants. These defendants were involved in the manufacture, sale and distribution of tetracycline-based drugs, which allegedly had caused the permanent staining and discoloration of Bright's teeth. In her complaint, Albright alleged that while an infant and during her teeth-forming years she ingested drugs which had a tetracycline base, and that said drugs were manufactured, publicized, distributed and sold by the named defendants and possible unknown defendants who may have been in the same business. Albright alleged that defendants were jointly and severally liable to her, and because she did not know which defendants manufactured, sold and distributed the drugs she ingested, she claimed that the burden was upon each defendant to exculpate itself by proving that its drug did not cause her injuries. On June 8, 1984, one named defendant, Upjohn Co., and four others, filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that they had not been identified as manufacturers, distributors or sellers of any tetracycline drugs taken by Albright. On Aug. 28, 1984, Albright filed an amended complaint in which only three tetracycline-based drug manufacturers were named as defendants. On Sept. 13, 1984, the court granted Upjohn and its co-defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissed all claims against them with prejudice. On Sept. 24, 1984, Upjohn filed a motion to alter the Sept. 13th judgment to include an award of expenses, including attorney fees, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. The district court denied Upjohn's motion to amend. Consequently, Upjohn appealed.

Issue:

Did the district court err by denying Upjohn's motion to alter the judgment in order to include an award of expenses?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court reversed the district court's order. The court noted that according to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, every pleading, motion, and other paper of a party represented by an attorney shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in his individual name, whose address shall be stated. Furthermore, Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 provided that if a pleading, motion, or other paper was signed in violation of the rule, the court, upon motion or upon its own initiative, shall impose upon the person who signed it, a represented party, or both, an appropriate sanction, which may include an order to pay to the other party or parties the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred because of the filing of the pleading, motion, or other paper, including a reasonable attorney's fee. In the case at bar, the court determined that the pre-filing investigation conducted by the Albright's attorney was insufficient because it failed to disclose that the claim against Upjohn was well grounded in fact within the meaning of Rule 11, or that there existed any likelihood that additional medical records would be located that could not have been found through reasonable inquiry prior to filing. Accordingly, the court held that the denial of Upjohn's Rule 11 motion was an error. The Court remanded the case to the district court for the imposition of sanctions.

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