Courts discourage frivolous or vexatious actions by litigants in an attempt to protect the integrity and fairness of the judicial system. Unfortunately, however, the discussion of frivolous and vexatious actions by litigants in the area of Family Law is all too common.
Frivolous actions are those with no realistic prospect of success, that are virtually untenable or that lack a basis on which an allegation or claim is made. The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench made a finding of frivolous action against Applicants in an estate matter concerning guardianship of a dependant adult. The Court described that the Applicants were aware of a doctor’s report which they should have realized made their position virtually untenable.
Where allegations may be difficult to prove, however, they are not necessarily frivolous. Courts have made it clear that a difficult case is different than an impossible case (Nishikawa v Nishikawa, (1971) 6 RFL 191 (ONCA)).
Vexatious actions are those actions which attempt to purposely abuse or misuse the legal process. Vexatious actions are not those with mere ill feelings, mean-spirit or nastiness towards another party. Furthermore, actions with bad or selfish motive are not necessarily vexatious in themselves.
The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench made a finding of vexatious action where a husband sued his wife and her family members for approximately $14,000,000.00 for the removal of property from the matrimonial home as a “prop” for the ongoing Divorce and Matrimonial Property proceedings.
The Alberta Rules of Court set out remedies available to parties at the receiving end of frivolous or vexatious actions. Where a finding of frivolous or vexatious action is made, Courts may strike or stay all or part of a claim, set aside documents, provide judgment or award costs.