Speed 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 legitimate interest of the plaintiffs.
Held: It is an abuse of process to use litigation with the ulterior purpose of oppressing or harassing one’s opponents. An action for the tort of abuse would lie where it could be shown that proceedings had been instituted in order to effect an object or purpose not within the scope of the process that had been instituted. The court approved a statement from American torts law ‘One who uses a legal process, whether criminal or civil, against another primarily to accomplish a purpose for which it is not designed, is subject to liability to the other for harm caused by the abuse of process.’


Fox LJ


[1985] 1 WLR 1327, [1986] 1 All ER 91


England and Wales


ApprovedIn re Majory, a debtor CA 1955
The debtor challenged the bankruptcy petition and receiving order saying that the creditor had attempted in connection with the proceedings to extort andpound;8 15s from the debtor in excess of the sums lawfully due under a court judgment. He said . .

Cited by:

CitedHM Attorney-General v Ian Richard Flack Admn 29-Nov-2000
A civil proceedings order was sought against the respondent. The respondent had commenced many actions against a particular company, which it was claimed were vindictive in nature.
Held: Though the earliest proceedings had been vexatious it . .
CitedPitman Training Ltd and Another v Nominet UK and Another ChD 22-May-1997
The defendant had received a request to register the domain name ‘pitman.co.uk’ from the claimants, who held the trade mark. The domain was not activated, and was de-registered by the defendants and then re-registered by another company. Action was . .
CitedBalkanbank v Naser Taher and Others QBD 13-Feb-1995
The plaintiff had obtained a worldwide Mareva injunction, giving an undertaking for damages. On its discharge, the defendants sought to make a counterclaim. The defendant company and its subsidiaries sought to counterclaim for their damages suffered . .
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 . .
CitedBroxton 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 . .
CitedStobart Group Ltd and Others v Elliott QBD 11-Apr-2013
The defendant applied to the court for various officers of the cliamant companies to be subject to contempt proceedings. The claimants asked the court to strike of the defendant’s counterclaim and to make a civil restraint order against him. There . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Torts – Other

Updated: 29 April 2022; Ref: scu.190157