Judge takes aim at litigant who sued lawyers for years

A Nova Scotia judge has made two rulings this week aimed at protecting court resources following what he describes as a spate of unmeritorious lawsuits in that province.

Nova Scotia Court of Appeal Justice Edward Scanlan ordered a man to pay a security for costs before he pursues yet another appeal after suing several lawyers for conspiracy. A day later, the judge dismissed another appeal citing waste of court resources.

“...There has been a plague of cases in this court and lower courts wherein litigants appear to engage the judicial assets of this province for a purpose other than to resolve legitimate legal disputes,” Scanlan said in R. v. Cummings.

“They often drag innocent bystanders into the quagmire and inevitably consume a disproportionate share of judicial resources, with little regard to the intended application of court rules and processes.”

In Tupper v. Attorney General, the plaintiff Thomas Tupper has blamed everyone from his girlfriend to lawyers and the courts for the fallout of an accident that took place 20 years ago. He was found 75 per cent guilty of a motorcycle accident in which he injured a pedestrian, but according to Tupper, the victim had intentionally placed himself in front of the motorcycle.

“In Mr. Tupper's mind, each of the lawyers who participated in his trial and [lawyer Bob] Stewart were aware, by virtue of their legal training, that damages should be awarded only to victims of genuine accidents,” Scanlan wrote. “Accordingly, Mr. Tupper asserts that these lawyers became party to the insurance fraud by allowing him to be victimized by the pedestrian.”

Tupper has left a trail of unpaid costs in his wake. Now, Scanlan has restricted him from pursuing another appeal unless he pays $2,250 in security for costs to the respondents, four of whom are lawyers.

One of the lawyers, John Kulik, a partner with McInnes Cooper in Halifax, tells Legal Feeds he became involved with Tupper while representing Judgment Recovery (NS) Ltd. following a separate accident in which Tupper was the victim and appealed a $7,000 order made in his favour.

Kulik says he is being sued “on irrational basis,” and notes he and the other lawyers are now initiating a vexatious litigant application against Tupper. The vexatious litigant provision was not available to Nova Scotia 10 years ago, Kulik says.

Part of the problem, adds Kulik, is that self-represented litigants are able to waive costs ordered against them if they can prove they are impecunious. “That’s a problem, because it costs them nothing then to do this.”

Tupper has previously filed a complaint against the lawyers with the Barristers Society of Nova Scotia, which rejected his allegations. He appealed the decision at the Divisional Court, which also dismissed his case.

“Mr. Tupper, throughout the various proceedings, has made accusations of dishonesty, unethical, even criminal behaviour; suggesting that those counsel and litigants who stood in his way conspired to deny him justice,” Scanlan wrote. “He went so far as to suggest the justice system itself was part of the conspiracy to destroy him. The attacks not only included counsel but were also directed against justices of the various courts including Justices Nunn, Duncan, Boudreau and Farrar.”

He added: “It is clear that Mr. Tupper has no respect for the courts, other litigants, counsel or the judges in the various courts. Yet he uses the court system as an instrument of torture, with impunity.

“The lack of respect combined with his demonstration of the fact that Mr. Tupper is not prepared to abide by any court order including the costs orders that are now outstanding establishes special circumstances warranting an order for security for costs.”

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