Monday, May 16, 2016

Can't Win for Losing

Stamp out vexatious litigation
It is a strange day when I don't see a lawsuit where someone isn't doing something stupid that then causes them grief for untold years to come.

Take the case I read the other day, Goodrich v. Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.  Seems Doctor was hired.  When her original contract expired, it was decided not to retain Doctor and Doctor was let go. Doctor didn't like that and filed a writ of administrative mandate contesting her termination (but didn't bother to show up to the hearing).  When Doctor's writ was denied, she filed five motions in quick succession contesting the denial and each motion was denied (i.e. Doctor didn't win).

Sierra Vista petitioned to have Doctor declared a vexatious litigator under CCP 391(b)(2) and was denied (i.e. Sierra Vista lost).  Not to be outdone, Doctor then filed one more motion to overturn the original denial.  I guess it's like that one Monty Python skit where the extremely fat guy eat and eats and then pops when he eats that one last dinner mint.  Anyway, Sierra Vista again petitioned to have Doctor declared a vexatious litigator and this time Sierra won.  Huzzah!

The problem with being declared a vexatious litigator is that if it wasn't a pain just to have to jump through a bunch of hoops hoping to win your lawsuit (or defend against one), now you get to deal with a whole 'nother bunch of hoops, like:
  • Under CCP 391.7, in addition to other relief, the court, on its own motion or the motion of any party, enter an order prohibiting a vexatious litigant from filing any new litigation in California in pro per without first obtaining permission from the presiding judge.  A vexations litigant who disobeys this order may be punished for contempt of court.
What this means is that if you're a vexatious litigant, you can't sue anyone without permission. That's ANYONE in the action you started or any future litigation in the entire state.  Really sucks - particularly if someone finds out about your status and they start to piss you off; you can't go after them in court unless you get permission from the court to file a lawsuit.  Like being in kindergarten and having to ask to go to the bathroom.  What a pain.
  • Under CCP 391.7(b), the presiding judge can require a vexatious litigant, prior to filing any litigation, to provide security to cover costs the defendant(s) may incur.
What this means is that before you can file any litigation in the state against anyone, a vexatious litigant has to post a bond to cover costs that a perspective defendant might incur.  So, if the defense might incur $1,000,000 in costs, you have to post a bond to cover that amount (whether they actually incur all those costs, or not). 
  • Under CCP 391.7(c), the court clerk can refuse any litigation a vexatious litigant tries to file subject to obtaining a pre-filing order from a presiding judge to permit said filings.
What this means is that a clerk and completely ignore your attempts to file any legal documents in any future action (either related or unrelated to the matter you were originally labeled a vexatious litigant).  You could have written the best legal complaint ever written but if you're on that vexatious litigant list, you're screwed until you get permission from a judge to file a lawsuit.
  • Under CCP 391.8(b), a person declared a vexatious litigant can file a motion to be removed from the vexatious litigant list. If their motion is denied, they can't file another application for twelve (12) months.
What this means is that you don't have to be a vexatious litigant forever.  You can ask the court to be removed from the Official Vexatious Litigant list.  If, however, you've pissed off enough people with your insistent litigation, you're request will probably be ignored and you won't be able to file another request for ONE WHOLE YEAR!

Bottom line, if you're one of those persons who are easily offended or hold onto grudges for a long time, stay away from the litigation arena.  I mean, stop before you leap because even if you can, it doesn't mean you should and you're probably best served to avoid the legal system altogether. I'm just sayin.