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Stuart Gordon and James Holder Prevail on Motion for Terminating Sanctions to Win Dismissal of Legal Mal Suit

Gordon & Rees founding partner Stuart M. Gordon and associate James K. Holder of San Francisco recently won the complete dismissal of a legal malpractice suit on behalf of their clients, a Bay Area probate law firm and two attorneys.

Representing defendants Janice Earle, Pauline Reimer, and San Jose firm Earle & Reimer, Mr. Gordon and Mr. Holder prevailed on a motion for terminating sanctions – one of the most severe penalties in civil litigation. Although courts rarely grant such motions, on Dec. 16, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Socrates Peter Manoukian granted the defense’s motion for terminating sanctions in Aiassa v. Volpe, et al.

Plaintiff Annette Aiassa had sued the defendants seeking more than $1 million in damages for the alleged negligent advice of counsel regarding the settlement of a complicated trust administration dispute in which Aiassa served as trustee. The defendants vehemently denied the plaintiff’s groundless allegations.

One month before trial was set to begin in the legal malpractice action, Mr. Gordon and Mr. Holder brought the motion for terminating sanctions against the plaintiff pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 2025.450(d). The motion was based on the plaintiff’s failure to comply with the court’s Nov. 27 order granting the defense motion to compel her to appear for completion of her deposition, which she had not done for almost a year. 

Mr. Gordon and Mr. Holder successfully persuaded the court to grant their motion for terminating sanctions dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice. Judge Manoukian wrote: “Generally terminating sanctions are sanctions of last resort exercised by the Court. However, Plaintiff’s refusal to comply with discovery has caused Defendants to suffer prejudice in their defense against Plaintiff’s claims. Trial is set to begin on January 13, 2014. Time is of the essence, yet Plaintiff continues to refuse to participate in the proper discovery of these matters. Counsel for defendants have made repeated attempts to meet and confer with Plaintiff, but were unsuccessful. Plaintiff’s actions have not been deterred by an order compelling her to appear at Defendants’ properly noticed deposition.”

Gordon & Rees’s clients were extremely pleased with this favorable result on their behalf, bringing this contentious litigation to an early resolution without the stress and expense of a protracted trial, and protecting the lawyers’ ability to continue delivering quality legal services to their clients.   

Stuart M. Gordon
James K. Holder