ONISCHUK v ALBERTA, 2013 ABQB 89
3.68: Court options to deal with significant deficiencies
7.3: Summary Judgment (Application and decision)
Onischuk initiated various court Actions over several years stemming from allegations that he was exposed to toxic chemicals, as a result of voluntarily participating in a cleanup of chemicals following the derailment of a train in 2005. The majority of the Actions and subsequent Appeals were struck. On January 6, 2011, Onischuk filed this claim and also filed a nearly identical claim in the Federal Court, but the Federal Court struck the Action. To begin, Justice Rooke noted that, with two exceptions, the Pleadings in the current Action were, in essence, a duplication from the first Court of Queen’s Bench Action and the Federal Court Action.
The Court considered whether Onischuk was a vexatious litigant under Sections 23 and 23.1 of the Judicature Act, RSA 2000, c J-2. Justice Rooke stated that an accurate description of a vexatious litigant was one who repeatedly brought Pleadings containing extreme, unsubstantiated, unfounded, and speculative allegations against a large number of individuals to exploit or abuse the Court process for an improper purpose or to gain an improper advantage. The Court declared the Plaintiff to be a vexatious litigant, as his conduct had been improper and an abuse of Court processes.
The Defendants requested that Onischuk’s claims be struck pursuant to Rule 3.68 on the basis that they disclosed no reasonable claim, were frivolous, irrelevant or improper, and constituted an abuse of process. Regarding whether there was a reasonable claim, Justice Rooke stated that a Pleading should be struck only when it was plain and obvious that it disclosed no reasonable Cause of Action. In making this determination, the Court must assume that the allegations of fact made by the Plaintiff are true, unless the Statement of Claim contains bare allegations with no facts stated, speculative facts incapable of proof, facts found against the Plaintiff in earlier stages, or patently ridiculous allegations. The Plaintiff must plead facts, not a bare duty of law, and the general rule is that where a Statement of Claim is unclear, it should be construed generally. Justice Rooke considered the allegations against each of the Defendants and, even assuming the allegations to be true, found that no Cause of Action lay against any of the Defendants. Based on this, all the Pleadings were struck.
The Court also considered whether the Claim was frivolous, irrelevant or improper. Justice Rooke noted that a frivolous Pleading was one that was indicative of bad faith or factually hopeless, or “so palpably bad that the Court needs no real argument to be convinced of that fact”. In this case, it was held that the complete lack of alleged facts to support the Plaintiff’s allegations rendered his claims so palpably bad that they were properly classified as frivolous. Based on this, the Defendants’ Applications to strike were also granted on this ground.
The final factor considered for striking the Statement of Claim was whether it was an “abuse of process”. The Court noted that the doctrine of abuse of process engaged the inherent power of the Court to prevent the misuse of its procedure in a way that would be manifestly unfair to a party to the litigation or would in some other way bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Abuse of process may be established where: (1) the proceedings are oppressive or vexatious; and (2) violate the fundamental principles of justice underlying the community’s sense of fair play and decency. In this case, Justice Rooke held that the Plaintiff’s Pleadings complained about the actions of lawyers and judges, alleging, among other things, conspiracies and tampering, and advanced no reasonable Cause of Action. Based on this, it was held that the proceedings contained the hallmarks of vexatious litigation and, if the Action was allowed to proceed, it would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
Finally, Justice Rooke considered whether, in the alternative, the Defendant should be granted Summary Judgment. Justice Rooke held that the Plaintiff’s Pleadings disclosed no reasonable Cause of Action; therefore, there was no genuine issue for Trial. Having found that there was no merit to the Plaintiff’s claims, the onus shifted to the Plaintiff; however, he did not put forward any evidence. Justice Rooke held that if the claims against the Defendants were not already struck, the Court would have found Summary Judgment was warranted.View CanLII Details