Abuse of process involves using criminal or civil proceedings against another person to accomplish a goal for which the legal process was not originally intended. In layman’s terms: inappropriately using the justice system for personal gain. When a person abuses the legal process for an ulterior motive, they are liable for the direct and indirect consequences of their actions. However, although an inconvenience to those affected, abuse of process claims is difficult to prove.
The Elements of Abuse of Process
To make an abuse of process claim, the case must show the following elements:
- Improperly using the court process
- Improper, inappropriate, or ulterior motives of the offender using the process illegally
- Damages and harm to the victim as a result of the abuse of process
- In some situations, the abuse itself can be enough to satisfy these requirements, even if there were no results, damages or harm inflicted upon the victim.
Motives and Abuse of Process
In an abuse of process case, the purpose or motive usually involves coercion to obtain illegal advantages over individuals. The intended outcome often differs from the actual, and legal, purpose of the process. An example might include filing a lawsuit that has no basis in law but is intended to get information or receive payment.
Using the Law in Retaliation
Spite alone will not suffice as an ulterior or improper motive, especially if the defendant properly follows legal procedures and processes. However, combined with improper use of legal processes, spite, maliciousness and vindictiveness can help prove abuse of process.
Malice as an Element of Abuse of Process
In some jurisdictions, malice may not be enough to satisfy the abuse of process requirements, unless the victim seeks exemplary or punitive damages. In other jurisdictions, malice is a required element of abuse of process.
Contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins P.A. for Legal Representation
If you believe that you are a victim, or you suspect that someone is guilty of abuse of process against a friend or loved one, contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins P.A. for a consultation. Free consultations are always available for new clients at our office in Port Richey, Florida. During that time the nature of the charge(s) and the complexity of the case(s) will be discussed. You will only owe us a fee if you decide to retain us to represent you.