Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Three Generations of Vex Is Enough

Goodrich v. Sierra Vista Regional Med. Ctr., No. B259726 (D2d6 Apr. 27, 2016)

Plaintiff, pro per, keeps trying to re-litigate the denial of a writ of administrative mandamus in which she unsuccessfully sought to challenge a hospital’s termination of her staff privileges. (Notably, she never appealed the initial denial.) On her second go at it, the trial court warned her that any more meritless filings could result in her being declared a vexatious litigant. She nonetheless did it again. So the curt made good on its word. It found that Plaintiff was a vexatious litigatant
, under Code of Civil Procedure § 391(b)(2) and (3), and required her to post a $25k bond and obtain pre-filing leave before filing any more motions or actions.

The Court of Appeal affirms over a substantial evidence challenge. Under § 391(b)(2), one way to be a vexatious litigant is to repeatedly attempt to relitigate an issue or claim that has been finally determined against the person. Plaintiff contents that “repeatedly” requires more than three. But the court—relying on dicta in Morton v. Wagner, 156 Cal. App. 4th 963 (2007)—holds that three can be enough. So long as the record supports that “repeatedly relitigating issues previously decided in [a prior] judgment unreasonably burdened both [the opposing party] and the court, which had to expend time and other resources addressing the motions and appearing at unnecessary hearings.” Which was the case here.

For belt and suspenders, the court also affirms the finding under § 391(b)(3), which alternatively defines a vexatious litigant as one who “repeatedly files unmeritorious motions, pleadings, or other papers, conducts unnecessary discovery, or engages in other tactics that are frivolous or solely intended to cause unnecessary delay.” Filing repeated and fruitless motions to collaterally attack a final judgment meets that standard. Particularly when Plaintiff continued to do so even after being admonished by the trial court.


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