1998 Regular Session
To: Judiciary A
By: Representative McInnis
House Bill 1265
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTIONS 11-55-5 AND 11-55-7, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT A PARTY AND HIS ATTORNEY SHALL BE JOINTLY LIABLE FOR COSTS AND DAMAGES IN A FRIVOLOUS SUIT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 11-55-5, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
11-55-5. (1) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, in any civil action commenced or appealed in any court of record in this state, the court shall award, as part of its judgment and in addition to any other costs otherwise assessed, reasonable attorney's fees, * * * costs and the amount of damages sought in the complaint against any party or attorney if the court, upon the motion of any party or on its own motion, finds that an attorney or party brought an action, or asserted any claim or defense, that is without substantial justification, or that the action, or any claim or defense asserted, was interposed for delay or harassment, or if it finds that an attorney or party unnecessarily expanded the proceedings by other improper conduct including, but not limited to, abuse of discovery procedures available under the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. The award shall be assessed jointly upon the party and the attorney representing the party.
(2) No attorney's fees or costs shall be assessed if a voluntary dismissal is filed as to any action, claim or defense within a reasonable time after the attorney or party filing the action, claim or defense knows or reasonably should have known that it would not prevail on the action, claim or defense.
(3) When a court determines reasonable attorney's fees or costs should be assessed, it shall assess the payment against the offending attorneys and parties * * * and shall allocate the payment among them, and the offending attorney and party shall be jointly liable for the fees or costs.
(4) No party, except an attorney licensed to practice law in this state, who is appearing without an attorney shall be assessed attorney's fees unless the court finds that the party clearly knew or reasonably should have known that such party's action, claim or defense or any part of it was without substantial justification.
SECTION 2. Section 11-55-7, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
11-55-7. In determining the amount of an award of costs, damages or attorney's fees, the court shall exercise its sound discretion. When granting an award of costs and attorney's fees, the court shall specifically set forth the reasons for the award and shall consider the following factors, among others, in determining whether to assess attorney's fees and costs and the amount to be assessed:
(a) The extent to which any effort was made to determine the validity of any action, claim or defense before it was asserted, and the time remaining within which the claim or defense could be filed;
(b) The extent of any effort made after the commencement of an action to reduce the number of claims being asserted or to dismiss claims that have been found not to be valid;
(c) The availability of facts to assist in determining the validity of an action, claim or defense;
(d) Whether or not the action was prosecuted or defended, in whole or in part, in bad faith or for improper purpose;
(e) Whether or not issues of fact, determinative of the validity of a party's claim or defense, were reasonably in conflict;
(f) The extent to which the party prevailed with respect to the amount of and number of claims or defenses in controversy;
(g) The extent to which any action, claim or defense was asserted by an attorney or party in a good faith attempt to establish a new theory of law in the state, which purpose was made known to the court at the time of filing;
(h) The amount or conditions of any offer of judgment or settlement in relation to the amount or conditions of the ultimate relief granted by the court;
(i) The extent to which a reasonable effort was made to determine before to the time of filing of an action or claim that all parties sued or joined were proper parties owing a legally defined duty to any party or parties asserting the claim or action;
(j) The extent of any effort made after the commencement of an action to reduce the number of parties in the action; and
(k) The period of time available to the attorney for the party asserting any defense before the defense was interposed.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1998, and shall apply to all causes of actions filed on or after that date.