Sometimes corporate clients suffer from the ‘one in every pack’ syndrome – that is, a vexatious litigant who becomes a ringleader and encourages others less confrontational to fund his or her vendetta. This is of course not always how group claims are categorized. Sometimes individuals are right to create a team to battle wrongs if they have been truly committed.
This vexatious litigant had already filed some spurious claims in the courts – and even a criminal claim against a manager of a business of our client. All claims were dismissed.
He then went on to examine property sale and purchase agreements, some of which were signed nine or ten years prior to his vendetta, to try and find a minor petty violation. These contracts contained arbitration clauses constituting an agreement by the parties to have their disputes arbitrated.
Mr. Vexatious managed to create what he thought was a ‘war chest’ fund based on advice from his lawyers who appeared to be treating the matter as if it were litigation oriented and not arbitration oriented.
Multiple claims were filed and our client received such claims, all filed separately.
We then worked with our client on a clear strategy to
(a) ensure enough time was available to prepare Statements of Defence
(b) ensure that the Claimants became aware that they could not ‘join’ their claims together without the consent of the Respondent.
(c) Ensure that Claimants realized that as our client believed all claims were spurious and vendetta oriented, that our client was not going to pay any of the arbitration fees. It would then be up to the Claimants to pay if they were so inclined.
It was clear that at this stage the Claimants began to weaken. They had been misinformed by Mr. Vexatious as to what arbitration actually involved. They had clearly not understood or had not been advised properly as to the rules of arbitration and the concept of the agreement of the parties governing various matters about the way in which the dispute is conducted, including matters such as joinder.
The Claimants were out of their depth, swimming in unfamiliar waters, without the correct equipment or advice to guide them to the next stage.
Claims started to be withdrawn, and clearly the strategy was working.
It is clear that arbitration and litigation are materially different in many respects. One very important matter they have in common is the need for a well planned and adjustable strategy, and a wise assessment of the behaviour and actions of the other party(ies).