Northern Illinois Telecom, Inc. v. PNC Bank, No. 15-2142 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
In 2012, NITEL filed this breach of contract suit in an Illinois state court against PNC Bank. PNC Bank removed to federal court and the district court granted summary judgment for PNC Bank. This appealed stemmed from the district court's post-judgment award of Rule 11 sanctions against both NITEL and its lawyer, Robert Riffner. In this case, PNC Bank failed to comply with Rule 11(c)(2)'s requirement that a party seeking Rule 11 sanctions first to serve a proposed motion on the opposing party and to give that party at least 21 days to withdraw or correct the offending matter. PNC Bank argued that the two letters it sent containing both settlement demands and threats to seek Rule 11 sanctions if its demands were not met amounted to "substantial compliance" with Rule 11(c)(2) and thus preserved its right to move for sanctions after the district court granted summary judgment in its favor. The district court agreed and imposed sanctions. The court need not revisit here whether substantial compliance can ever satisfy the warning shot requirement of Rule 11(c)(2). In this case, the court concluded that PNC Bank's warning shot letters fell far short of even the generous target of substantial compliance. Accordingly, the court reversed the award of sanctions against Riffner.