Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Vexatious Action Definition:

Litigation undertaken to annoy or oppress.

Related Terms: Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument Litigant, Vexatious Litigant, Abuse of Process

Also known as a vexatious suit or vexatious proceeding: a proceeding which is an abuse of the process of the court. {NOTE: considerable additional and relevant legal information is available at the Legal Definition of a Vexatious Litigant.}

In his Law Dictionary, John Bouvier wrote:

"A vexatious suit is one which has been instituted maliciously."

Mozley and Whitley (1962) propose:

"Vexatious action: an action brought merely for the sake of annoyance or oppression. The court has an inherent power to stay such an action."

vexatious actionIn Hillside Investments, Justice Marshall of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench adopted these words:

"... a vexatious proceeding, brought to embarrass or annoy the other party. It was not carried out in good faith and lacked bona fides."

In very similar wording, in A Concise Law Dictionary, P. G. Osborn writes:

"A proceeding in which the party bringing it is not acting bona fides, and merely wishes to annoy or embarrass his opponent, or which is not calculated to lead to any practical result.

"Such a proceeding is often described as frivolous and vexatious and the court may stay it on that ground ... under its inherent jurisdiction. But the inherent jurisdiction ... must be used sparingly and can be invoked only if the cause of action revealed in the statement of claim is bad."

This point of inherent jurisdiction was made above in Whitley ("inherent power") but also in Household Trust v Golden Horse. In the Household v Golden Horse case, the respondent Golden Horse Farms was fighting foreclosure tooth and nail, tooth and nail and tooth and nail. Justice Mary Southin of the Court of Appeal, for her part, hit the nail on the head when she summarized the history of this litigation as it came before her, again, much to her chagrin as it can only be imagined:

"Mr. Nelson has caused this matter to be in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on sixteen different occasions and in this Court on twenty different occasions.... In this foreclosure action in which the amount at issue is some $89,000, his clients have been forced to incur a legal bill of some $75,000....The appeal book before us is four volumes, consisting of 800 pages.

"In my opinion, the Supreme Court of British Columbia has an inherent jurisdiction and a corresponding duty to exercise that jurisdiction to protect a petitioner or plaintiff who seeks relief in that Court from proceedings by a defendant who is vexatiously abusing the process of the court.

"That it is a jurisdiction to be exercised with great caution, I have no doubt. But not to exercise it where there is no other way to bring reason into proceedings is, in effect, to deprive the plaintiff or petitioner of justice according to law.

"The court if it fails to act becomes but a paper tiger."

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