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.