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January 16, 2015

Court of Appeals finds Ferris is entitled to attorney fees against law firm for frivolous case

Asserting frivolous claims against Ferris State University will cost Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C. and its client nearly $300,000.  In Bonacci v. Ferris State University, Nos. 318136, 319101, the trial court concluded that the law firm, which represents various community colleges, failed to adequately investigate the factual basis of the employment claims it asserted on behalf of Plaintiff Bonacci against Ferris in violation of MCR 2.114.  Specifically, Bonacci claimed in her lawsuit that Ferris failed to provide the accommodations necessary for her to return work as required by the Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act.  But she testified at her deposition that she never returned the paperwork necessary to obtain an accommodation because she was never able to return to work.  The trial court imposed joint liability against Bonacci and the law firm for the frivolous claims.  The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, but reversed the award of attorney fees incurred in responding to an application for leave to appeal because the trial court lacked authority to award appellate attorney fees.  The opinion is notable to practitioners as the rare example of the sort of failure to investigate that can give rise to sanctions. 
 

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