Dealing with a vexatious litigant?

By Sharusha Moodley, director, Bregman Moodley Inc Attorneys

A party to a litigation process may relentlessly launch various legal proceedings against another party currently involved in a litigation process.

These legal proceedings may be vexatious because they lack merit, are not bona fide and are aimed at irritating, distressing, harassing, annoying, or causing financial strain on a responding party. Moreover, the responding party is dragged to Court, knowing full well that the initiator of these legal proceedings will not be able to pay legal costs on account of a loss. 

In such circumstances, the Vexatious Proceedings Act 3 of 1956 (the Act) provides that an applicant can seek an interdict against any person who has persistently and without any reasonable ground instituted legal proceedings against another person.

However, an applicant has to prove that the legal proceedings are persistent and without reasonable ground on a balance of probabilities. In addition, an applicant must prove that the legal proceedings are frivolous, vexatious or without merit. 

The Court may order that they shall institute no legal proceedings against any person in any Court, or any inferior Court without that Court’s permission, or any Judge or inferior Court as the case may be. The Court will not grant such approval unless satisfied that the proceedings are not an abuse of the process of the Court and that there is a prima facie ground for the proceedings.

The Act further provides that the Court may issue an order obtained under the Act for an indefinite period or such period as the Court may determine. However, on good cause shown, a Court may rescind or vary any Order so issued.

In a February 2022 unreported decision of NDC v GC, Judge Munzhelele said, “The Act seeks to protect an applicant who is subjected to costs and unmeritorious litigation as well as the functioning of the courts to proceed unimpeded by groundless proceedings.”

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