The Dragonetti Act
In 1980, the PA legislature enacted what is commonly known as the Dragonetti Act. The most well known area is entitled "Wrongful Use of Civil Proceedings", and codified at 42 Pa.C.S.A. 8351. (a) A person who takes part in the procurement, initiation or continuation of civil proceedings against another is subject to liability to the other for wrongful use of civil proceedings [if]: (1) He acts in a grossly negligent manner or without probable cause and primarily for a purpose other than that of securing the proper discovery, joinder of parties or adjudication of the claim in which the proceedings are based; and (2) The proceedings have terminated in favor of the person against whom they are brought. So what does this mean for you? If the facts favor that you are sued by someone, and knowing they sued you and acted grossly incompetent in doing so, you may recover costs, including counsel fees, and pain and suffering. However, you cannot bring the claim until the case has ended.
Abuse of Power
In order to establish a claim for abuse of process, the plaintiff in the second action must prove that the original plaintiff (1) used a legal process against the current plaintiff; (2) primarily to accomplish a purpose for which the process was not designed; and (3) harm has been caused to the plaintiff. Werner v. Plater-Zyberk, 799 A.2d 776 (Pa.Super. 2002). Realize however that the prior proceeding does not need to be terminated in order to bring a claim for abuse of power. While the standard is not as clear as with Wrongful Use of Civil Proceeding, the facts will show whether there was an abuse. Most commonly are cases for retaliation, either for raising fees or specific action. Whatever the reason may be, these cases usually stick out as unreasonable, and the court will likely agree. If you think you have a claim, ask yourself, would a reasonable person think in my circumstances that the other side acted reasonable? If the answer is more no, you may have a claim.