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Exaggeration of amounts claimed = abuse of process

When you file a lawsuit or a counterclaim in a lawsuit directed against you, you must make sure that there is a balance between the evidence you are able to substantiate and the actual claim, otherwise you could be condemned for abuse of process.

Abuse of process is defined by article 51 of the Code of Civil Procedure in the following terms:

“The courts may at any time, on request and even ex officio, declare that a claim or other procedural act is abusive.

Abuse may result, regardless of intent, from a claim or other procedural act that is manifestly ill-founded, frivolous or dilatory, or from vexatious or querulous behaviour. It may also result from the use of the procedure in an excessive or unreasonable manner or in a manner that harms others or from the misuse of the ends of justice, among others if it has the effect of limiting the freedom of expression of others in the context of public debates.”

If the Superior Court of Quebec ruled in favour of an abuse of process in the case of a grossly exaggerated claim (Vassiliou v. Charrette, 2021 QCCS 6070), this was not the case for the judge of the Court of Quebec in a decision dated January 17, 2022 (Hôtel Clarendon inc. v. Lessard, 2021 QCCQ 785).

In the first decision, the defendant’s excessive counterclaim, accompanied by its abusive behaviour during and in connection with the proceedings, justified an award of $9,918.32, but only in respect of the legal fees that the plaintiff had to incur.
In fact, the multiplication of accusations and claims, the fact of claiming exaggerated and arbitrary sums to justify the unilateral termination of the lease, but also and especially to force the plaintiff to reach an advantageous agreement, were deemed sufficient to justify a condemnation against the defendant for abuse of process. This is a denaturalization of the action and an abuse of process.
In the second decision, on the other hand, the judge held that, although the exaggerated nature of the sums claimed in the application was obvious, this alone did not justify a finding of abuse of process, since the plaintiffs’ conduct was reasonable and there were serious legal issues at stake. This is where the difference lies between addressing the Court with integrity and instrumentalizing the judiciary in order to put undue pressure on the other side.

It would seem that the exaggerated nature of the sums claimed exposes you to a condemnation for abuse of process, but on the condition that your behaviour and actions are equally abusive.

NOTE: This article does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion. It is only used to inform readers about certain aspects of litigating fiscal law.