What is a “Vexatious Litigant”?
Imagine this nightmarish scenario – you become the target of unrelenting, unwarranted litigation. You are named as a Defendant in lawsuit after lawsuit which are ultimately found to be without merit, though not after you’ve spent time and money defending against these baseless claims. Not only is your time and money wasted, but so are the resources of the Court, including the Judges, clerks and administrative staff.
Unfortunately, this is not entirely uncommon. The Court is burdened with what have been termed “vexatious litigants” who take advantage of the fundamental right afforded to all of us to have access to justice.
In light of this problem, the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta implemented procedures by way of Civil Practice Note 7 for dealing with claims that appear to be “frivolous, vexatious, or otherwise an abuse of process”. Pursuant to this Practice Note, a Clerk of the Court or a Defendant named in an action may make a request to the Court to engage the Practice Note and review the claim as a possible AVAP (Apparently Vexatious Application or Proceeding). The claim is then sent to a specific Judge who has been appointed in that Judicial Centre, who is tasked with reviewing and identifying whether it is in fact a vexatious or abusive proceeding, by looking at a number of indicia including, but not limited to:
- Whether it makes bald allegations without a factual basis;
- Whether it seeks impossible, excessive or disproportionate remedies;
- Whether is seeks remedies on behalf of parties uninvolved in the lawsuit;
- Whether it has scandalous or inflammatory language; and
- Whether it has a political focus rather than asserting a right recognized in law.
Should the Judge find that a proceeding is vexatious or an abuse of process, they have discretion to stay, dismiss or strike it out.
If a Court determines that future abusive litigation by an individual is plausible, they can go even further to declare them a vexatious litigant and impose court access restrictions on them, which can include restrictions such as that the individual must first obtain leave of the Court before filing any claims, that they must be represented by a lawyer in any future proceedings and that they must make any applications only to the Chief or Assistant Chief Justice of the Court.
For more information on this issue and to read about one of the “worst” vexatious litigants ever encountered by the Courts in Alberta, I would encourage you to read Olumide v Alberta (Human Rights Commission), 2019 ABQB 186.