When someone initiates a lawsuit against you without any reasonable basis, you may have a claim against your accuser for malicious prosecution. In addition, you may also have a claim for abuse of process if your accuser decides to use judicial processes to harass you after the lawsuit has been filed.

What Is Abuse of Process and What Do I Need to Prove?

Abuse of process is where someone uses a legitimate judicial process for reasons that are not intended for the process to carry out. For example: if your accuser obtains a subpoena from the court just so he/she can cause you inconvenience and not because he/she wants to get some information from you, then that will be an abuse of process.

In order to bring a claim of abuse of process, one must show the following:

  1. The use of a process
  2. An ulterior motive by the accuser
  3. A misuse of the process in question
  4. Injury and damages resulting from the abuse of process.

Some courts require that the process results in the seizure of the person or property before a claim can be made.

What Are Some Examples of Process?

Generally, “process” for the purposes of this claim must be some judicial process. Examples of process that people can abuse include:

  • Requests of summons from the court
  • Counterclaims
  • Subpoenas
  • Motions for sanctions
  • Motions for restraining orders
  • Motions for change of location
  • Appeals

How Can I Show That the Accuser Had an Ulterior Motive?

Most times an ulterior motive is determined by the facts and circumstance of the specific case. The court will look at both the intent of the accuser and his/her actions. Some courts will infer an ulterior motive if the accuser had actually misused a process, even though he/she might deny that he/she did it intentionally.

Good signs that your accuser might have an ulterior motive include:

  • Attempt to gain an advantage in a legal proceeding
  • Attempt to gain a business advantage over you and other competitors
  • Attempt to gain economic advantage that would not otherwise be available.

When Is There a Misuse of Process?

There is a misuse of process if the accuser:

  1. Used the process in a way not contemplated or authorized by law, and
  2. Had done so intentionally, knowing it would be a misuse.

May I Sue Public Prosecutors and Government Official for Abuse of Process?

Very rarely. Most courts grant immunity and special privileges to public prosecutors and government officials to be free from liability. However, they must generally be acting in their official capacity and not beyond the scope of their powers.

Should I Contact a Attorney?

If you have been the victim of abuse of process, and want to file a lawsuit, or just want to know if you have a lawsuit against your accuser, you may find the advice of a criminal attorney to be helpful in this complicated area of law.