Vexatious Litigant or "You need permission to Sue"

It’s interesting to see the main stream media pick up on some of the more technical aspects of Civil Law Suits these days.

This morning, the GTA papers were commenting on the recent Ontario Superior Court decision finding William Assaf to be a “vexatious litigant” as a result of the volume of law suits he filed over the past 40 years.

The commentary I read indicated this is a very rare finding. The people making the commentary are wrong: it’s not as rare as you think, in fact, most lawyers who I know who practice Business Law have had at least one such case in the past five years.

There is a legal test you have to meet to declare someone vexatious and while I could go through this concept in legal language here, that is just not the type of lawyer I am. Instead, let me break this down into plain English.

A “vexatious litigant” is someone who starts civil proceedings that have no likelihood of success for the purpose of forcing the other party to the law suit to incur legal fees which the “vexatious litigant” has no ability to repay.

Once a lawyer proves that the party is a vexatious litigant, the VL (much shorter to call them that) has to ask permission from the Court before s/he can start a law suit. The VL is not prevented from suing if they have a legitimate claim, but a Judge will decide that before the claim is issued.

I’ve been successful in obtaining VL orders in the past: the behaviour of the VL has to be clear, repeated and involving similar facts or people. If your business is being repeatedly being sued by an entity without any merit to the law suits, a VL order will prevent you from having to deal wiht this repeatedly and is worth a converation with our firm.

Inga B. Andriessen JD