Let’s say I suddenly became very wealthy, and could easily afford to have an attorney working for me full-time. Let’s also say that I had compiled a list of people I have had some minor personal grievance with- coworkers, ex-girlfriends, next-door neighbors, and so on. Could I sue all of them, even if I didn’t have any legitimate reason for doing so?
The goal of these lawsuits wouldn’t necessarily be to get a settlement, just to tie them up with litigation and make their lives hell. Is there anything, other than the costs involved, that would keep someone from doing this?
Yes. Malicious litigation is a tort, and subjects you to compensatory and punitive damages. Of course, with your unlimited moneys, you could fight this for awhile, but eventually you’d lose a big chunk of money. Eventually, I believe, the court will start screening your lawsuits for merit before allowing them.
Of course, your victims can ask the court to throw your cases out based on a lack of merits.
To a point but at some juncture a Judge may look at one of your frivilous actions, dismiss it and and tell the people you are harassing to sue you. I think there are also penalties for abuse of process, but I have rarely seen these pursued. There is also the danger that if you start harassing people willy-nilly and happen to pick on an unstable or dangerous person (or someone related to same) you could wind up dead or severely injured.
Your attorney could be found guilty of the crime of barratry.
I thought lawyers were supposed to do this. Not only can an individual potentially be sued for brining a malicious lawsuit but I thought attorney’s could likewise be penalized by the courts for bringing frivilous lawsuits. Presumably a lawyer should be able to determine that your case has no merit before filing and refuse the case. In practice, there is likely always some attorney somewhere looking for business who will take it but that doesn’t mean they still can’t get in trouble.
Unfortunately I think it is hard to prove a lawsuit is frivilous or malicious. Almost always some case can be made that the plaintiff felt they had a legitimate reason to sue. Companies regularly engage each other in harrassment suits. Win or lose Company X might be able to keep Company Y’s competing product off the market for years…so what if the litigation costs $500,000? Company X stands to make millions in the meantime (look at drug company vs. drug company litigation to see tons of this).
One last thing, I think in order to sue you have to prove you have ‘standing’ (sorry, don’t know the technical term) to sue. That is, you have to show YOU were directly affected by whatever it is you’re suing for. For this reason you’ll often see organizations like the ACLU waiting for a ‘test’ case to develop. Even if the ACLU doesn’t like a given law they have to wait for someone else to run afoul of whatever it is the ACLU doesn’t like and then use that person to pursue their case.
IANAL, but I got interested in one such individual. He had enough money to live on, and acted as his own attorney while suing neighbors, etc. After putting a lot of people through grief, he got declared a “vexatious litigant”. This was in California, and there are specifications for this–X number of cases in a row, or in a timeframe, got dismissed by courts for having no merit.
After that, he would be required by the Courts to put up a bond in advance, before proceeding with suits, to pay the defendants’ costs and attorney fees in case the suits were found to be meritless.
IIR, he showed up again filing a lawsuit. I don’t know if the defendant had to find out that he was a VL, and apply for the protection specifically. …Also, once a bomb was set off on his porch, which didn’t stop him.
And another Sue City Sam got anonymously turned into the County for building violations, and was being hit for $45,000 in penalties and fees.
Shows you can’t act on everything you hear on the Internet and talk shows. Sometimes it’s better just to act like a normal person.
Yes – in most jurisdictions (maybe all, even), every paper that is filed in a court must be signed, either by the actual person filing it or his lawyer. A lawyer who signs something without a good-faith belief in the factual truth and the legal justification for his position is subject to sanction. See, e.g., Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Note, however, that this isn’t as high a burden as you might think; a lawyer is entitled to believe his client’s story unless he has relatively strong evidence to the contrary.
As to the point about standing, that actually is the technical term, and you’re generally right about it, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with the OP. That’s because the standing inquiry (which is usually very early in the case) is based on the facts as alleged by the plaintiff, not the true facts as they actually happened or as they will be determined to have happened by a jury after trial. For instance, say I sue you for hitting me with a baseball bat. Now, in truth, you never have hit me with a baseball bat, so I’m in all likelihood going to lose my case. However, in the complaint, I allege that you did in fact hit me with a bat. I have standing to sue, because if my allegations are true, I was in fact directly injured by your actions.