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New Tools to Fight Vexatious Litigants

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I've written about vexatious litigants here before (here, for example) - litigants who bring frivolous, harassing claims with no merit to them.  As an update on this front, new amendments to the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure appear to be starting to take hold in weeding some of these claims out at an early stage. The first of these types of cases (at least those that are reported), as discussed below, appear to be a start to dealing with a tough issue for the courts.

 

As of July 1, 2014, the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure have been amended to add (among some other more minor changes) a new procedure for dealing with vexatious litigants.  The new rules provide an expedited procedure that can be initiated by the court on its own, where a vexatious claim can be dismissed without the involvement of the defendants.  In short, if a claim comes to the court's attention that "appears on its face to be frivolous, vexatious or otherwise an abuse of process", a notice can be sent to the litigant requiring him or her to provide a written response explaining why the claim should be allowed to proceed.

The main purpose of the new rule is to avoid situations where a vexatious litigant can force an innocent party to incur costs to respond to clearly improper claims, and can take up excessive court time.  This reasoning has recently summarized by Justice Myers in Gao v. Ontario WSIB, 2014 ONSC 6100:

[9]               Rule 2.1 is not meant to apply to close calls.  It is not a short form of summary judgment.  But that does not mean that it is not to be robustly interpreted and applied.  Where a proceeding appears on its face to meet the standards of frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of process, the court should be prepared to rigorously enforce the rule to nip the proceeding in the bud.  Rigorous enforcement of this rule will not only protect respondents from incurring unrecoverable costs, but should positively contribute to access to justice by freeing up judicial and administrative resources that are so acutely needed to implement the “culture shift” mandated by the Supreme Court of Canada.  The new rule tailors appropriate procedural fairness for the category of cases involved and is an example of early resolution of civil cases that is very much in line with the goals set out in Hryniak.

The first reported cases under this new rule have started appearing:

  • In Gao v. Ontario WSIB, 2014 ONSC 6497 (the follow-on to the Gao decision referenced above), Justice Myers dismissed a motion to note the defendants in default, after a previous judge had already dismissed the plaintiffs case.  The motion appears to have been brought on the basis that his claim (or something related to the claim, perhaps - the details are not entirely clear) had been altered by the defendant or the court staff.  After receiving rambling submissions from the plaintiff, Justice Myers dismissed the motion and directed that no further documents be accepted from Mr. Gao in the proceeding.
  • In Jayaraj v. H.M.Q., 2014 ONSC 6367 Justice Nordheimer dismissed a claim seeking to quash appointments of over 20 Justices of the Peace, set aside rules set by the court for the release of recordings of proceedings, and to quash appointments to the Toronto Police Services Board while staying all promotions within the Toronto Police Services.
  • In Ali v. Ford, 2014 ONSC 6665, Justice Myers (again) dismissed a claim for "SIXTY MILLION United States Bank Notes (in lieu of lawful money)" against Rob Ford, Chief of Police Bill Blair and the City of Toronto for ... well, it's not exactly clear what he's claiming, other than it looks to be a classic "Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument" claim.

Having dealt with vexatious litigants before, I suspect this won't really stop them - they'll often just keep finding new ways to push their vexatious litigation - but it will hopefully make it easier to weed out these cases at an early stage.

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