How to Defend Against a Delusional Litigant
When a lunatic goes off in a mindless rant, sometimes it's best to just walk away.
That also applies to crazy litigants -- and we're not talking personal injury lawyers who ask for billions in damages. We're talking about the bona fide bizarre, like the plaintiff in Huang v. Hanks.
Han Jin Huang sued Tom Hanks, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark Zuckerberg, and about 30 other celebrities for conspiracy and putting "nano probes" in his brain. In that kind of case, you might want to do something more than walk away.
'Bizarre or Implausible'
The California Third District Court of Appeal said judges should send those cases away to save everybody some trouble. It's not clear whether a judge should do it sua sponte, but the appeals court said trial judges have the inherent power to dismiss "bizarre or implausible claims."
Appeals courts can dismiss frivolous cases on their own, said Justice Vance Raye, and trial courts should do the same. They should throw out "frivolous claims that cannot avoid being categorized as 'fantastic,' 'delusional,' or 'fanciful,'" he wrote.
The Metropolitan News Enterprise noted it was a case of first impression, although it wasn't the first time Huang has made such claims against celebrities. In a Texas case, Huang alleged actor Charlie Sheen and others were "putting items in his body."
"A complaint lacks an arguable basis in fact and is factually frivolous when the allegations are fanciful, fantastic, and delusional ... Plaintiff's allegations in this case clearly fall into the 'fanciful,' 'fantastic' and 'delusional' categories," Judge Andrew Austin wrote in dismissing the case.
Motion to Dismiss
Rather than wait for the court to review a delusional case, practitioners should tee it up with a motion to dismiss a frivolous lawsuit.
Strategically, it is good practice to send the opposing party a warning shot in a letter. But if it's a foregone conclusion -- because they're nuts -- file as soon as possible.
But be careful because one man's delusion is another man's conclusion.
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