What is a Vexatious Litigant? Can anything be done to stop a person from bringing court applications to the Court?

One of our clients his dealing with an ex-spouse who continually brings applications to court. The applications lack merit and ignore various court orders. The opposing party is in breach of numerous orders, won’t pay support or costs, and makes allegations against our client. Our client has sole guardianship of the children from this relationship. The opposing party has not seen the children in over 2 years. There are issues pertaining to addictions to drugs and alcohol, and serious underlying mental health issues.

In the 2014 British Columbia Supreme Court case, Dawson v. Dawson, 2014 BCSC 44, the Honourable Mr. Justice Barrow heard an application by the mother seeking a declaration that the opposing party is a vexatious litigant.

A declaration is a finding made by the Court. This can be made within the meaning of s. 18 of the Supreme Court Act, which states:

18  If, on application by any person, the court is satisfied that a person has habitually, persistently and without reasonable grounds, instituted vexatious legal proceedings in the Supreme Court or in the Provincial Court against the same or different persons, the court may, after hearing that person or giving him or her an opportunity to be heard, order that a legal proceeding must not, without leave of the court, be instituted by that person in any court.

Examples of what could satisfy the court that person is vexatious, include, but are not limited to:

(a)        the bringing of one or more actions to determine an issue which has already been determined by a court of competent jurisdiction constitutes a vexatious proceeding;

(b)        where it is obvious that an action cannot succeed, or if the action would lead to no possible good, or if no reasonable person can reasonably expect to obtain relief, the action is vexatious;

(c)        vexatious actions include those brought for an improper purpose, including the harassment and oppression of other parties by multifarious proceedings brought for purposes other than the assertion of legitimate rights;

(d)        it is a general characteristic of vexatious proceedings that grounds and issues raised tend to be rolled forward into subsequent actions and repeated and supplemented, often with actions brought against the lawyers who have acted for or against the litigant in earlier proceedings;

(e)        in determining whether proceedings are vexatious, the court must look at the whole history of the matter and not just whether there was originally a good cause of action;

(f)        the failure of the person instituting the proceedings to pay the costs of unsuccessful proceedings is one factor to be considered in determining whether proceedings are vexatious;

(g)        respondent’s conduct in persistently taking unsuccessful appeals from judicial decisions can be considered vexatious conduct of legal proceedings.

Given the history of Mr. Dawson, and the issues pertaining to family violence, the Court did make a declaration that he was a vexatious litigant. Under the Family Law Act, section 221, an Order can be made for a litigant cannot bring applications without seeking the permission of the court. This is another way to stop a person who continues to bring vexatious proceedings.

The Judge in this case did make an order under section 221 of the Family Law Act.

Contact of one our Surrey or Langley Family Law Lawyers and we can assist you if you are dealing with something similar.