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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
New York State Courts by Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP
Posted: November 15, 2020

Bad Motive, Without More, Insufficient Basis for an Abuse of Process Claim

On November 4, 2020, Justice Hudson of the Suffolk County Commercial Division issued a decision in Rizvi v. North Shore Hematology-Oncology Assoc., P.C., 2020 NY Slip Op. 51281(U), holding that bad motive, without more, is an insufficient basis for an abuse of process claim, explaining:

The Court now turns its attention to the Plaintiff’s Third Cause of Action which sounds in abuse of process. To successfully plead such a claim, a plaintiff must show the following elements: (a) there was regularly issued process, civil or criminal, compelling the performance or forbearance of some prescribed act; (b) the person activating the process must be moved by a purpose to do harm without economic or social excuse or justification; and (3) the person is seeking some collateral advantage or corresponding detriment to the litigant that is outside the legitimate ends of the process. If process has a legitimate purpose, however, the allegation that it was misused does not suffice to state a claim for abuse of process. It is not enough that the actor has an ulterior motive in using the process of the court. It must further appear that he did something in the use of the process outside of the purpose for which it was intended. Every one [sic] has a right to use the machinery of the law, and bad motive does not defeat that right. There must be a further act done outside the use of the process-a perversion of the process. A malicious motive alone does not give rise to a cause of action for abuse of process.

Applying the criteria listed above, the Court finds that the abuse of process claim was not plead adequately. Defendants were not seeking some collateral advantage that was outside the legitimate ends of the process. Even if the process was misused in a manner that was not evident, it does not matter because the process also has a legitimate purpose. That a Preliminary Injunction was granted in the First Action makes that clear. Additionally, a malicious motive alone would not give rise to an abuse of process claim. Even if malice were clearly pled in relation to the abuse of process claim, that would not be enough to be actionable. The only way for Plaintiff to make this claim would be if he were to win the First Action. Unless that happens, the abuse of process allegations are conclusory. Controlling case law demonstrates that such a pleading is patently insufficient.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted)

Part of being a good litigator is thinking of winning arguments other lawyers miss. However, courts can be impatient with lawyers who cross the line from creative to making frivolous arguments. Contact Schlam Stone & Dolan partner John Lundin at jlundin@schlamstone.com if you or a client has a question regarding whether an argument has crossed the line from creative to sanctionable.

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Posted in Commercial, Sanctions
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