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Abuse of Process Claims in SLAPPs

 

A suit for abuse of process seeks to recover damages for the use of a court process for a purpose other than that for which the process was designed, and which intentionally perpetrates an injustice.

Sound familiar?

Although not all abuse of process claims are meritless, if you’ve been sued for abuse of process, you may well have been SLAPPed. The anti-SLAPP law generally applies to abuse of process claims (because they generally involve statements or writings made in connection with a judicial proceeding), and when it does, only meritorious abuse of process suits can survive an anti-SLAPP motion.

The case below is one example of an abuse of process SLAPP decided by the California Supreme Court:

Rusheen v. Cohen
California Supreme Court, 2006 (review of Los Angeles Co. Superior Court)
37 Cal. 4th 1048, 39 Cal. Rptr.3d 516

Rusheen sued Cohen for abuse of process, for allegedly filing false declarations regarding the service of court papers, and conspiring to execute the resulting default judgment against Rusheen. Cohen filed an anti-SLAPP motion, asserting that Cohen’s conduct was privileged under Civil Code section 47(b) as communications in the course of a judicial proceeding. The trial court agreed and granted the motion. The appellate court reversed on the grounds that executing on the improper default judgment was unprivileged, noncommunicative conduct.

The California Supreme Court reversed, holding that the anti-SLAPP motion should have been granted. It concluded that where the gravamen [primary thrust] of the complaint is a privileged communication (i.e., allegedly perjured declarations of service) the privilege extends to necessarily related noncommunicative acts (i.e., the act of levying).

If you suspect that the abuse of process lawsuit against you might be a SLAPP, contact CASP for a free consultation.

The information on this website is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. The information here is meant to provide general information to the public. We would be happy to consider your specific situation and the possibility of providing legal advice or assistance if you contact us directly.

Site last updated March 25, 2014 @ 11:52 am; This content last updated November 5, 2012 @ 1:25 pm