The Vexatious Litigant

The Vexatious litigant (“VL”) is a different breed. There are a number of red flags for this type of litigant and Vexatious Proceedings. However the categories of vexatious proceedings and their characteristics are not closed. The VL is often in a state of denial. Prior court orders requiring him or her to pay costs are ignored. Previous adjudication of issues is simply not accepted. The VL simply repackages the previous alleged causes of action and tries to pursue them again in another court. The Vexatious behaviour can be launching a claim that should not be launched, or continuing a proceeding in a vexatious manner or brining an appeal that has no business in court. Other markers of the VL include unintelligible claims that leave Judges baffled/confused as to exactly what is the cause of action. No trees are spared in some cases with claims running in the hundreds of pages. A novel. Not a pleading. But the “novels” are not organized like a proper pleading but may be a running rant of injustices by adverse parties including court officials.

The personality trait of perseverance is valued in our society in most contexts: hang in there, work hard, don’t give up and things will go your way. The VL is a persistent personality but persistence in this realm is not valued by the courts. It wastes court resources, and puts people to unnecessary expense with a colossal waste of time. Left unrestrained, the VL brings the administration of justice into disrepute. Instead of an objective determination of legitimate issues based on the facts and law, a proceeding may take on the goals of intimidation, oppression, harassment of the opposing side with a persistent bent on furthering the VL’s own reality. Emotion is at the driving wheel of the litigation bus, instead of reason.

Our litigation system has filters to weed out cases that don’t belong in the courts. Summary judgment is an example. But there are other tools, for ex. Rule 2.1 of the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure and s. 140 of the Courts of Justice Act that are there for those dealing with a vexatious litigant in an effort to put an end or the breaks on the vexatious behaviour or at least force the VL to come to court to get permission from a Judge before using the litigation process. Filters are in place early on to protect our litigation system so that court time is reserved for those parties that have legitimate disputes.

However the filters do not apply easily. Usually the VL proceeding is obvious on its face. If there are grey areas and it is not fairly clear, the courts air in allowing the matter to proceed further where a further filter , for example Summary judgment may come into play down the litigation road.

Our Courts are there to assist those that legitimately need their help not those that ignore court orders and use the litigation process for collateral improper aims.*

William Poulos, Barrister
* This blog is not a substitute for legal advice. Should you require legal advice, a lawyer should be consulted to advise on the specific circumstances of your case.

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