Attorneys concerned about getting hit with sanctions because of an inadequate investigation of the facts can take relief from an unpublished order today from the Supreme Court of Virginia.In 8522 Lee Highway at Merrifield LLC v. Sonic-Manhattan Fairfax Inc., Record No. 072107, 8522 Lee Highway filed suit alleging that Sonic was trespassing on its property after a survey from a licensed surveyor.
The complainant subsequently learned the survey was not accurate and told the Fairfax County Circuit Court and Sonic that it intended to move for dismissal of the case. Before the motion was filed, Sonic filed a motion for sanctions under Virginia Code § 8.01.-271.1. The trial judge concluded that the physical appearance of the area and the 1966 deed and plat of the property should have made it obvious that 8522 Lee Highway’s survey was erroneous. The court ordered the company to pay $7,550 in attorneys’ fees and $2,846 in costs and expenses. The Supreme Court ruled, however, “It was objectively reasonable for [8522 Lee Highway] to rely on the survey and the discussion with the licensed surveyor informing the belief that Lee owned the property at issue.” By Alan Cooper