Life in co-ownership is like a micro-society where disputes are omnipresent. Many conflicts are neighborhood quarrels, which are usually settled with civility. However, it happens that some disputes are fueled by co-owners thirsty for justice who will want to assert their rights in court at all costs. This is why divided co-ownership is not immune to quarrelsome litigants who multiply legal recourses to redress real or fictitious damage. They usually represent themselves alone in court. They show stubbornness and narcissism by systematically trying to have indirectly what cannot be obtained directly.
Abuse of process
It should be noted that a person's right to taking part in judicial proceedings is not one that is limitless. As stated by the Court of Quebec in a judgment dealing with the question of co-ownership: The filing of a procedural document before a judicial tribunal is a serious and solemn act that engages the integrity of the person who takes the initiative. Courts sometimes have to impose certain guidelines on litigants in the exercise of their rights and punish abuses of process. The court may thus, in a case of abuse of procedure, at any time, on request and even of its own motion, declare that a judicial application or a pleading is abusive. Abuse of procedure may consist in a judicial application or pleading that is clearly unfounded, frivolous or intended to delay or in conduct that is vexatious or quarrelsome. It may also consist in a use of procedure that is excessive or unreasonable or that causes prejudice to another person, or attempts to defeat the ends of justice, particularly if it operates to restrict another person’s freedom of expression in public debate. The jurisprudence has identified certain criteria for assessing whether a procedural approach is abusive or not. This is the case, in particular, proportionality, the pecuniary amounts claimed (monetary sentences sought disproportionate, disproportionate or atypical), the relentlessness during the proceedings, the frivolous nature of the legal basis, the desire to harm others (in the spirit of revenge), the inability or refusal to respect the authority of the courts, the harm to which others are exposed and the imbalance of forces involved.
Factors or characteristics of a quarrelsome litigant
As noted in the decision of the Court of Québec above, the factors or characteristics that are recognized by the courts as symptomatic of conduct that is offensive are as follows:
Once the legal claim is found to be abusive, the court may dismiss the claim or other abusive procedural act, delete or require modification of a finding, refuse or terminate an examination, or quash a subpoena. In addition, the court may, if it considers it appropriate, make the continuation of the legal action or the procedural act subject to certain conditions.
The party who is the victim of this abuse of process may also apply to the Superior Court of Quebec or the Court of Quebec for an order restricting access to a litigant who is begging to the courts, pursuant to article 55 of the Code of Civil Procedure of Quebec. The application will be presented and contested orally; the judge will rule on the basis of the procedural documents and the documents in the file.
Thus, if a person engages in conduct that is to say, if he exercises his right to sue excessively or unreasonably, the court may, of his own motion or on application, prohibit him from bringing an action in court or from producing or presenting a procedural document in a proceeding already instituted, without the prior authorization of the Chief Justice or a judge designated by him and on such conditions as the Chief Justice may determine. The order may be of general application or restricted to certain bodies, tribunals or bodies subject to the superior Court's power of judicial review, apply in one or more districts or apply to one or more persons. It may also be limited in time. In exceptional circumstances, it may even prohibit or limit access to a courthouse.
The court may also order the party concerned to pay, in addition to legal costs, damages for any injury suffered by another party, including to cover the professional fees and disbursements incurred by that other party, or award punitive damages if warranted by the circumstances. In this regard, it should be noted that the directors of a legal person are not immune from a declaration of querulence and may be personally ordered to pay damages.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ! If a party summarily establishes that a judicial application or pleading may constitute an abuse of procedure, the onus is on the initiator of the application or pleading to show that it is not excessive or unreasonable and is justified in law.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND : The right to sue is fundamental and the courts take great care before declaring a person to be quarrelsome. When the judge concludes in this sense, the purpose of the order will be to minimize the damage caused by the unreasonableness of the quarrelsome litigant on the legal system. The Ministère de la Justice du Québec keeps a public register of persons subject to an application for authorization.
WARNING !When a party initiates legal proceedings, it must ensure that it is in possession of a minimum of evidence that qualifies a minimum of rights. One cannot use the procedure in the hope of finding non-existent evidence. Nor can we claim vastly exaggerated amounts.