Broxton v McClelland: CA 31 Jan 1995

The defendants issued various applications to strike out the claim, including a claim of abuse of process. The action was being financially maintained by a third party. The defendants contended that the maintainer’s purpose was to oppress and ultimately bankrupt the defendants, and for that reason the action should be struck out as an abuse of process.
Held: The proceedings should not be struck out since the plaintiffs were not seeking to achieve a collateral advantage beyond the scope of the action. The motive for bringing proceedings is irrelevant, and a plaintiff is entitled to seek the defendant’s financial ruin if that would be the consequence of properly prosecuting a legitimate claim.
Simon Brown LJ extracted the following principles from earlier authorities: ‘(1) Motive and intention as such are irrelevant . . : the fact that a party who asserts a legal right is activated by feelings of personal animosity, vindictiveness or general antagonism towards his opponent is nothing to the point. . (2) Accordingly the institution of proceedings with an ulterior motive is not of itself enough to constitute an abuse: an action is only that if the Court’s processes are being misused to achieve something not properly available to the plaintiff in the course of properly conducted proceedings. The cases appear to suggest two distinct categories of such misuse of process:
(i) The achievement of a collateral advantage beyond the proper scope of the action – a classic instance was Grainger -v- Hill where the proceedings of which complaint was made had been designed quite improperly to secure for the claimants a ship’s register to which they had no legitimate claim whatever. The difficulty in deciding where precisely falls the boundary of such impermissible collateral advantage is addressed in Bridge LJ’s judgment in Goldsmith -v- Sperrings Limited at page 503 D/H.
(ii) The conduct of the proceedings themselves not so as to vindicate a right but rather in a manner designed to cause the defendant problems of expense, harassment, commercial prejudice or the like beyond those ordinarily encountered in the course of properly conducted litigation.
(3) Only in the most clear and obvious case will it be appropriate upon preliminary application to strike out proceedings as an abuse of process so as to prevent a plaintiff from bringing an apparently proper cause of action to trial.’

Simon Brown LJ
Unreported, 31 January 1995, [1995] EMLR 485
England and Wales
See AlsoBroxton v McClelland 6-Nov-1992
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CitedGrainger v Hill CEC 1838
Misuse of Power for ulterior object
D1 and D2 lent C 80 pounds repayable in 1837, secured by a mortgage on C’s vessel. C was to be free to continue to use the vessel in the interim but the law forbade its use if he were to cease to hold its register. In 1836 the Ds became concerned . .
CitedGoldsmith v Sperrings Ltd CA 1977
Claims for Collateral Purpose treated as abuse
The plaintiff commenced proceedings for damages for libel and an injunction against the publishers, the editors and the main distributors of Private Eye. In addition, he issued writs against a large number of other wholesale and retail distributors . .
CitedSpeed Seal Ltd v Paddington CA 1985
The court was asked whether the defendant should be permitted to add to his pleadings a counterclaim asserting that the action was brought in bad faith for the ulterior motive of damaging the defendants’ business, and not for the protection of any . .

Cited by:
CitedLand Securities Plc and Others v Fladgate Fielder (A Firm) CA 18-Dec-2009
The claimants wanted planning permission to redevelop land. The defendant firm of solicitors, their tenants, had challenged the planning permission. The claimants alleged that that opposition was a tortious abuse because its true purpose was to . .
CitedDhir v Saddler QBD 6-Dec-2017
Slander damages reduced for conduct
Claim in slander. The defendant was said, at a church meeting to have accused the client of threatening to slit her throat. The defendant argued that the audience of 80 was not large enough.
Held: ‘the authorities demonstrate that it is the . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Litigation Practice

Updated: 04 December 2021; Ref: scu.384387