On the face of what you have written, there is no reason to believe that sanctions would be granted. In New York, attorney sanctions are governed by NYCRR Section 130-1.1, which I have copied for you below. I will highlight relevant sections for you that will help you evaluate whether you could prove in a motion what is necessary in order to get an award for costs or sanctions.
Section 130-1.1 Costs; sanctions.
(a) The court, in its discretion, may award to any party or attorney in any civil action or proceeding before the court, except where prohibited by law, costs in the form of reimbursement for actual expenses reasonably incurred and reasonable attorney's fees, resulting from frivolous conduct as defined in this Part. In addition to or in lieu of awarding costs, the court, in its discretion may impose financial sanctions upon any party or attorney in a civil action or proceeding who engages in frivolous conduct as defined in this Part, which shall be payable as provided in section 130-1.3 of this Part. This Part shall not apply to town or village courts, to proceedings in a small claims part of any court, or to proceedings in the Family Court commenced under Article 3, 7 or 8 of the Family Court Act.
(b) The court, as appropriate, may make such award of costs or impose such financial sanctions against either an attorney or a party to the litigation or against both. Where the award or sanction is against an attorney, it may be against the attorney personally or upon a partnership, firm, corporation, government agency, prosecutor's office, legal aid society or public defender's office with which the attorney is associated and that has appeared as attorney of record. The award or sanctions may be imposed upon any attorney appearing in the action or upon a partnership, firm or corporation with which the attorney is associated.
(c) For purposes of this Part, conduct is frivolous if:
(1) it is completely without merit in law and cannot be supported by a reasonable argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law;
(2) it is undertaken primarily to delay or prolong the resolution of the litigation, or to harass or maliciously injure another; or
(3) it asserts material factual statements that are false.
THIS IS BASICALLY THE ELEMENTS THAT YOU WOULD HAVE TO SHOW.
Frivolous conduct shall include the making of a frivolous motion for costs or sanctions under this section. In determining whether the conduct undertaken was frivolous, the court shall consider, among other issues the (1) circumstances under which the conduct took place, including the time available for investigating the legal or factual basis of the conduct; and (2) whether or not the conduct was continued when its lack of legal or factual basis was apparent, should have been apparent, or was brought to the attention of counsel or the party.
(d) An award of costs or the imposition of sanctions may be made either upon motion in compliance with CPLR 2214 or 2215 or upon the court's own initiative, after a reasonable opportunity to be heard. The form of the hearing shall depend upon the nature of the conduct and the circumstances of the case.
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Unless the claims in the pleading are false, or meet the other requirements of the statute, sanctions will not lie. However, it sounds like, if the things in the pleading are true, that there could be come attorneys who have committed ethical violations on one side or malpractice on the other by either not recognizing the evidentiary hearing was needed or failing to disclose a material fact to the court.
Okay, let me make sure I am understanding.
$40K in sanctions were granted against your attorneys?? That's almost unheard of.
It is likely that the court got very, very angry at the attorneys for failing to disclose that material fact and slapped them on the wrist. It is likely that the sanctions fell under subsection (3): it asserts material factual statements that are false.
While they didn't actually make a false statement, it can be argued that the failure to disclose that very material fact had the same effect as making a false statement to the court. Although that is just speculation - the court should have put into its order for sanctions the reasoning behind them.
Relevant facts are disclosed through pleadings and submissions to the court - it is highly unusual that attorneys would be sanctioned for failing to request an evidentiary hearing. The appellate court will decide whether or not the trial court erred in sanctioning your attorneys - in that determination they may look at whether or not the town attorneys knew about the mental illness.
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