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Edited by: Sandra Stanfield
noun | vex·a·tious lit·i·ga·tion | /vekˈsāSHəs/ /lidəˈɡāSH(ə)n/
Vexatious litigation is legal action which is brought, regardless of its merits, solely to harass or subdue an adversary. It may take the form of a primary frivolous lawsuit or may be the repetitive, burdensome, and unwarranted filing of meritless motions in a matter which is otherwise a meritorious cause of action.
Meritless Lawsuits Do Happen
From time to time conflicts present themselves in our lives. Whether it is a dispute with a disgruntled neighbor, a former spouse, a dissatisfied customer, or one of the many other tense relationships we find ourselves navigating through, there are diverse and numerous instances where disagreements arise in day-to-day dealings. For an unlucky few, these disputes can end in a costly, time consuming, and downright annoying meritless lawsuit landing at their front door. Fortunately for victims of baseless lawsuits when the suit is terminated in their favor and lacks probable cause there may be a remedy. The remedy is called vexatious litigation.
Protection from Frivolous Lawsuits
As long as there has been a legal system in Connecticut, there have been concerns over its abuse. Connecticut has laws prohibiting vexatious lawsuits. The origins of the law date back before Connecticut’s statehood, to the colonial codification of 1672. The original concept comes from England, as far back as the late 13th century, and was carried over to the American colonies. Meritless lawsuits are not a dated concern, however, as is apparent from the recent trend toward vexatious litigation suits.
The crux of a vexatious litigation claim is the existence of probable cause to bring the underlying action. “Probable cause”, per the Supreme Court of the State of Connecticut, is the “knowledge of facts, actual or apparent, strong enough to justify a reasonable person in the belief that he [or] she has lawful grounds for prosecuting the defendant in the manner complained of.” This is an objective test. This means that a person bringing the case (plaintiff) and his or her attorneys need to be able to show that they knew facts “strong enough” to justify a reasonable person in the belief that he or she is suing for. Without this showing of probable cause the litigator may be liable for vexatious litigation. In addition to the lack of probable cause the suit must have been terminated in your favor.
Avoiding Vexatious Litigation
It is important for your attorneys to look for probable cause before bringing a suit in order to avoid vexatious litigation suits and the high costs associated with them. Double damages are permissible against an attorney or client bringing a meritless suit. If the meritless suit was brought with malice, treble damages can be awarded. Each case requires an individualized, fact specific determination as to probable cause.
Investigating Probable Cause
A detailed investigation is necessary to determine whether a litigator had probable cause to bring a lawsuit. If you have been sued, had a favorable result, and you believe that the person who sued you did not have probable cause to bring the lawsuit, we would be happy to speak with you and investigate. We encourage you to explore the option of bringing a vexatious litigation claim with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. We are here to help.