Canada: Good News For Nova Scotia Employers Facing Vexatious And Frivolous Litigation!

Last Updated: June 19 2014
Article by Lisa Gallivan and Alison Strachan

It may be that the person who writes such words as appear throughout this record is in need of help – in which case I would hope the appropriate intervention would be quick, tactful and effective. Be that as it may, such disgraceful and venomous language has no place in Canada's hallways of justice. Mr. Liu has revealed himself to be someone who lashes out at practically every individual whom he perceives to have found against him. He imagines a conspiracy at every level. He initiates proceedings in a variety of courts and, when shut down in one, tries to switch the venue or gain entry to another.

I agree with Mr. Graham's submissions that no litigant in Nova Scotia should ever be victimized by such groundless and abusive personal attacks, and then be forced, with paltry recourse, to retain counsel at considerable expense to defend itself against such spurious claims. Mr. Liu's scandalous allegations against court staff, public officials, lawyers, and judges demonstrate unequivocally that he has no respect for the Court or its process....

Liu v. Atlantic Composites Limited, 2014 NSCA 58

And so ends the ongoing litigation stemming from a claim for benefits following a workplace incident that ballooned into a cascade of motions, appearances, hearings, appeals and lawsuits for more than $500M.

What happened?

Mr. Liu sued his employer for wrongful dismissal. When he brought a motion for summary judgment on the evidence, the employer sought an adjournment to file affidavits and documentation for a summary judgment motion.

The summary judgment motion was heard and dismissed with the motions judge finding "that practically every material fact was in dispute". Mr. Liu appealed that decision. Both appeals were set down to be heard together.  Mr. Liu did not perfect his appeal, or file his appeal books or facta. He also did not pay security for costs of $15,000 that had been ordered by the Court of Appeal.

The employer made a motion to dismiss Mr. Liu's appeals and asked for costs on a solicitor-client basis.

What did the Court say?

Here's some flavour, but we always recommend reading the entire case as there's only so much we can quote for blog purposes.

67.       In light of the recent decisions of this Honourable Court, the Respondent submits that the history of the proceedings in this Court and the Court below demonstrate that the Appellant has acted in a manner that is vexatious or abusive. Whenever the Respondent has made a reasonable request of the Appellant, such as setting dates for the submission of Motion materials to the Court, or requesting the delivery of his Affidavit Disclosing Documents, the Appellant often refuses to respond, and when he does eventually respond, his letters are filled with offensive, meritless accusations that attempt to call into question the integrity not only of the Respondent, but also of the Respondent's counsel, as well as members of the Judiciary. This behaviour was ... abusive, and an abuse of process. The Respondent's actions in this regard further waste valuable Court resources by forcing the respondent to file Motions that would be unnecessary were the Appellant to conduct himself in a reasonable and respectful manner.

...

69.       In addition to being highly uncooperative, the Appellant has also failed to abide by various deadlines set by the Court for the filing of notices and materials, which further demonstrates his complete lack of respect for the Court's procedures. ...Moreover, the Appellant repeatedly requires the assistance of Court staff, and rarely does he file a document with the Court that he does not subsequently amend and re-file. This behaviour further taxes the Court's resources, and, the Respondent submits, creates delays that may impact more deserving litigants. Recently, he has taken to insulting Court staff, accusing them of inappropriate conduct and obstruction of justice, in complete disregard for the extensive efforts staff members have made to assist the Appellant.

What does this mean for employers?

It is not lost on us that Mr. Liu was self-represented and it is not news that self-represented individuals pursue questionable and sometimes frivolous and vexatious claims against former employers that can drag on for years. A full reading of this case, and others, shows that courts go to great lengths to sustain a self-represented individual's claim, but are not willing to sit idly by when the self-represented individual demonstrates a lack of respect for those involved in the process and the court process itself. This will be a useful case for employers to refer to once a claim moves beyond the respectful boundaries of the courtroom.  In the words of Saunders, J.A.:

6.         Too much time and paper have already been wasted describing the detritus of Mr. Liu's ill-advised forays into worthless litigation. The record here is replete with examples of conduct, words and actions that would be seen by any reasonable observer to be scandalous, frivolous, vexatious, and a clear abuse of process.

7.         The appellant's many misadventures have been thoroughly chronicled by a host of experienced jurists and I do not intend to repeat in these reasons what they have already made plain, except to provide context and ground the reasons for our decision.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Alison Strachan
 
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