Guy Who Sued Country for Bad Weather Declared a “Quarrelsome Litigant”

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To be fair, it wasn't just that he sued the Dominican Republic because it rained during his vacation. As Justice Diane Quenneville found in her decision, Bruno Leduc met all the requirements for being declared a "quarrelsome litigant," including the filing of numerous cases that tended to include claims that were "at the limit of being rational."

Claims that go past that limit probably count, too.

In the U.S. the term is usually "vexatious litigant," but the concept is the same: someone who abuses his or her right of access to the court system may have that access limited, generally (as in this case) by an order precluding them from filing a lawsuit without prior authorization from the court. They can still file, of course, but they have to go through extra steps to do so and lose the ability to hassle their targets through litigation unless a judge agrees that there is actually something to the particular case. You may or may not be surprised to learn that these orders are rare, even when they would seem to be well-deserved (see, e.g., "Orly Taitz Now 0-158" (Oct. 18, 2012)).

In Quebec, the term is plaideur quérulent, or "quarrelsome litigant," but it's the same concept. (I apologize for translation errors—the opinion is in French and for some reason has not been deemed important enough to translate.) A statute allows sanctions against anyone whose claim is (for example) "manifestly unfounded," "frivolous," brought in bad faith and/or with the intent to limit freedom of expression. The opinion lists a variety of factors that are considered when making this decision. For example, if the litigant:

  • files numerous lawsuits;
  • often against judicial officers;
  • represents himself or herself;
  • raises issues on which he or she has lost before;
  • makes arguments that "have a legal form but [are at] the limit of the rational";
  • seeks damages that are "excessive in relation to the actual harm alleged";
  • usually loses;
  • is unable to pay court costs after losing;
  • usually appeals when he or she loses;
  • often "demonstrates stubbornness and narcissism";

he or she may be a plaideur quérulent. Obviously, one or two of these factors would not be enough; in fact, mostly these are things that people have every right to do (self-represent, appeal, and, of course, lose). But in combination, they can result in sanctions.

So how did Leduc measure up? Well, the court noted that he had to date filed 70 cases, 19 of them during a three-month period last year. These included allegations that:

  • A government employee owed him $240 for contact lenses;
  • Costco employees took too long to get him a lawnmower ($350 demanded);
  • A website removed three of the ten ads he bought for a total of $5 ($650);
  • McDonald's employees were rude to him at the drive-thru ($7,000);
  • A Staples employee treated him "in a cavalier manner" ($450);
  • Employees of a Lacoste store acted similarly ($1,250);
  • Air Canada wouldn't let him sit in business class, and its staff spoke to him in English ($7,000); and
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines did not give him a window seat ($3,000).

The best example, though, is clearly Leduc v. Transat AT Inc. and the Consulate of the Dominican Republic, in which our hero sued a travel agent and the country he visited for reasons including "wet weather … and a scratch on his leg when he got a catamaran."

Frequently, the defendant alleged that the plaintiff had not been blameless in these matters, such in the Air Canada case. According to Air Canada, at least, it wouldn't let Leduc sit in business class because he only bought an economy-class ticket.

As further evidence of plaintiff's querulousness, the court noted that he frequently dismissed cases at the last minute or simply did not show up for hearings. He apparently failed to show for the hearing on the quarrelsome-litigant motion itself, although he did send along a letter asking for a postponement and stating that Justice Quenneville should recuse herself because she was presiding over 11 of his cases and so "may already have formed an idea" about how the motion should come out. I bet she had, but that doesn't mean she needed to withdraw.

And she didn't. After looking at the entire record, she held, she had "no hesitation in concluding that Leduc has abused the judicial system." She granted the motion to declare him quérulent, and ordered him not to file any more lawsuits unless he has first asked for and received permission, which he is supposed to do by letter.

If I'm reading paragraph 67 correctly, Leduc works as a part-time hypnotist, so it's a little strange that he hasn't been more persuasive.