Partner Karen L.M. Carteri and associate Emily L. Hansen successfully represented the College of Veterinarians of BC in an application to strike out claims by certain registrants of the College on the basis the claims were an abuse of process and otherwise bound to fail on various grounds. Mr. Justice Harvey wrote detailed reasons for judgment addressing the complex factual and legal issues and struck all the claims advanced against the College, while also finding that some of the claims were a nullity as they had been brought without leave, Johar v. College of Veterinarians of British Columbia, 2020 BCSC 1085.

The College applied to strike the claims on the basis they were bound to fail, were vexatious and an abuse of process, and disclosed no genuine issue for trial because they did not address all elements of the claims or were statute-barred. While the application was outstanding, the plaintiffs delivered an amended notice of civil claim and sought retroactive leave to bring certain of the claims. Both the original and existing claims concerned events going back to the early 2000s. The College submitted that the subject-matter of the claims had already been litigated in both the courts and the BC Human Rights Tribunal over a period of approximately 10 years. With only a few exceptions, Harvey J. agreed with the College’s submissions, finding variously that the claims (even as amended) were: duplicative of numerous earlier proceedings, some of which remained ongoing; were a collateral attack on existing court orders; were brought in the wrong forum; failed to plead the necessary elements of the claim, or were for a type of claim not available against the College; or were barred by the expiry of limitation periods. The College was also successful in obtaining a vexatious litigant order against the plaintiffs.

In the course of his reasons, Harvey J. clarified and confirmed the requirements for actions based on malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office, with regard to the availability of those causes against a regulatory body like the College. He also rejected an argument by the plaintiffs that their claims were discoverable only upon release of the HRT decision, noting that the “HRT is not a testing ground for the merits of a civil claim”.