Thursday, 12 December 2019

What is a Vexatious Litigant?

Written by Shiryn Hagh

Reading Time: 2 minutesReading Time: 2 minutes

Litigation is costly, time consuming, and stressful as it is. Add in a litigant who frequently and persistently takes legal action against you without reasonable grounds or purpose, and you can see those problems multiply quickly. These people are known as vexatious litigants. The legal industry does not regard vexatious litigants highly at all. Luckily, there are various safeguards for litigants to ensure protection or relief against a vexatious litigant. Accordingly, when exposed, vexatious litigants will face serious consequences.

What are vexatious proceedings?

The two key legislative instruments in NSW that define vexatious proceedings are the Vexatious Proceedings Act 2008 (NSW) and Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005 (NSW) (UCPR). Correspondingly, a proceeding initiated or conducted in a manner that amounts to an abuse of process, harasses or annoys, or causes delay or detriment is vexatious. Further, a case is vexatious when instituted without reasonable grounds or purpose.

Orders that can be made against a vexatious litigant

If it becomes apparent that a litigant is making a vexatious claim or the proceedings are generally vexatious, a vexatious proceedings order can be made against the litigant. Usually such an order entitles the Court to stay all or part of any the relevant proceedings. Further, an order prohibits the litigant from starting any new proceedings in the jurisdiction without the Court’s leave. For more information on vexatious proceedings and how they affect you as a litigant, read here

Why are vexatious litigants problematic to the rule of law?

A fundamental principle of civil procedure, which applies to civil proceedings, is the resolution of the real issues in the proceedings in a just, quick and cheap manner. Essentially, this means that the Court must at all times work towards giving effect to this principle.

To ensure parties don’t waste resources, time and energy into litigation, it is strongly encouraged to try alternative dispute resolution. But if your case ends up in litigation this principles will always be considered in terms of case management. Moreover, to maintain public confidence in the judicial system such a principle is necessary.

So, a litigant that persistently initiates proceedings that are hopeless and an abuse of process will be reprimanded. This safeguarding saves the courts time and resources as well as the other parties involved.

Final thoughts

In summary, a vexatious litigant is someone who brings forward hopeless proceedings frequently and persistently. Their motive could be to annoy and frustrate the defendant or they might not fully realise the lack of successful prospects in their claim. Accordingly, you should seek the advice of a litigation lawyer if you’re concerned your claim in a proceeding may be vexatious or you believe someone is initiating vexatious proceedings against you.

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