We all rely on the justice system to be the final arbiter of right and wrong, and as a result, those who abuse the court system can face significant penalties. In Pennsylvania, those who either use a legal process to intimidate or harass another, or who pursue litigation against a person or entity with the knowledge that their claim is baseless, can be held liable for wrongful use of civil proceedings.
Though a large percentage of defendants will argue that legal proceedings against them are wrong, there’s a significant difference between a legitimate question of law and a baseless or malicious claim. Because of the gap between the two, any defendant that feels they have been the victim of a wrongful use of civil proceedings must first go through the legal process and win: only after having secured a defense verdict can the accused file a claim against their accuser and become the plaintiff in a wrongful use proceeding.
In addition to a successful defense, there are other elements of a case that the wrongfully accused defendant will need to prove. These include:
- That the original plaintiff – who is now the defendant – filed a civil claim against them.
- That there was no good reason for the original plaintiff to have initiated the legal proceedings.
- The real reason that the original plaintiff filed their claim was with malicious or spiteful intent against the original defendant.
- That, as a result of the wrongful and ill-intended accusation, the original defendant suffered some kind of real harm, whether to their reputation, to their financial wellbeing, or to their emotional wellbeing.
It’s important to note that misuse of legal proceeding is, by definition, not limited to having a lawsuit filed against you. Other examples include filing a subpoena or warrant with the intent of causing expense, embarrassment, or intimidation, or requiring another person to testify with the intent of gaining some kind of advantage. Though it can be a real challenge to successfully prove that a person had the intent of causing harm, but an experienced attorney is able to do so, and when a person is found guilty of the tort, their lawyer can also face disciplinary actions.
If you believe that you have been the victim of a misuse of the court system, contact us today. We’ll review your specific situation and give you our best assessment of the options you have available to you.