If you have the right paperwork and the necessary filing fees, you can usually start a lawsuit over just about anything—people have sued over scary subway ads and TV shows that made them sick—however, there are times when a lawsuit is really a purposeful misuse of the court. If you suspect an ulterior motive exists beneath the surface of a personal injury lawsuit aimed your way, this is what you should know.
It's called an abuse of process.
Abuse of process in a civil case occurs when the real motive of the lawsuit isn't the actual dispute being addressed—in effect, the lawsuit is just a "cover" for another goal that the plaintiffs think they can use the court to accomplish. The plaintiff generally knows that he or she can't win the lawsuit, but the lawsuit isn't exactly frivolous—in fact, it has a very specific goal. The goal just can't be met through ordinary legal means.
It may have a number of different goals.
The goal might be related to the discovery process that happens during a civil proceeding. Discovery involves things like depositions, interrogatories, and other disclosures of private information under oath. Someone who wants to misuse the process may be seeking information to which they aren't otherwise legally entitled.
For example, if you run a company that manufacturers a special item, another company could try to file a lawsuit claiming that you stole the idea for the product (even though they have no evidence), in order to try to gain information about your manufacturing process during disclosure.
Abuse of process can also be used as a way to financially damage someone else. For example, someone might file a meritless lawsuit against you as a way to force you to choose between offering a settlement (that's less expensive) and offering a defense (that's costly). Another example would include something like your spouse suing you for alleged battery in order to tie up your finances and income, hoping to force you into the divorce settlement he or she desires just so you can get access to your assets again.
The goal of this sort of legal abuse can also simply be something for which there is no legal remedy. For example, the lawsuit filed against you could be just for the sake of revenge, especially if the person filing the lawsuit has greater financial means than you and can afford the legal fees. There are people who question whether or not the recent lawsuit by Hulk Hogan against Gawker was actually an abuse of process by Peter Thiel, who was angry at Gawker for "outing" him as homosexual. Thiel funded Hogan's lawsuit against the media giant.
You can turn the tables on the abuser.
If someone is misusing the legal system in order to manipulate you (or the court), you can turn the situation around and file a counter-suit, alleging abuse of process and asking for damages. It's important to note that those cases can be hard to prove—you have to essentially show the court that there's significant reason to believe that there was an underhanded motive for the case. On the other hand, courts don't appreciate the abuse of the legal process, so they take those issues quite seriously.
For more information, contact Erickson Law Office or a similar firm.Share
14 June 2016
When it comes to your personal rights, how much do you really understand the law. About ten years ago, I realized that I didn't really understand my rights when I was accused of something that I knew I didn't do. I could tell that I needed to work with a lawyer who had a better understanding of what I was up against, so I contacted a local team that could help. They were really incredible to work with, and I was impressed with how well they were able to fight the charges. This blog is here for anyone struggling with legal drama.