Mortgage firm forced to defend "hopeless" claim brought by litigant in person

Out-Law News | 13 Oct 2014 | 2:47 pm | 1 min. read

A recent High Court decision against a woman who made numerous unsubstantiated claims against a mortgage company demonstrates the "havoc" that particularly determined litigants in person can cause.

Finding in favour of Redstone Mortgages, the judge said that Paula Campbell's claim for damages in respect of belongings which were left behind at her property after Redstone took possession of it was "hopeless for a number of separate and distinct reasons". The claim was heard after Campbell had already made a number of unsuccessful procedural applications against Redstone, which were set out in the court's lengthy judgment.

Banking litigation expert Michael Hawthorne of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that Campbell's previous applications had been brought on "evermore unsubstantiated grounds". In its judgment, the court described some of them as being "totally without merit" and, on one occasion, as simply not recognised by the Civil Procedure Rules, which govern how court cases should be conducted.

"The way in which Miss Campbell's claim was conducted demonstrates the havoc that even the most unmeritorious claim can wreak when pursued rigorously by a litigant in person through the courts," he said.

The judge considered two main issues: firstly, the claim by Campbell that Redstone had entered into the mortgage fraudulently; and secondly, whether Campbell was entitled to damages after Redstone removed items from the property after it had taken possession of it. The mortgage issue was dismissed as "misconceived and vexatious", and the judge said that Campbell's claim was "an abuse of process as it seeks to attack a final decision that was adverse to her by a tribunal of competent jurisdiction".

Moving on to look at the second issue, and whether damages were due in respect of the items left in the property, the judge said that Redstone had become an "involuntary bailee … through events over which it had no proper control" by virtue of the circumstances of the case. This meant that Redstone had a duty to do what was "right and reasonable in the circumstances" with the items.

Looking at the conditions of the mortgage itself, which gave the firm the right to "remove, store or sell" any items not removed within seven days of it taking possession of the property; as well as the warnings that Redstone gave Campbell that it intended to dispose of the items, the judge concluded that the firm had complied with this duty. He said that Campbell's "tactic of leaving her goods at the property was a deliberate one, designed to ... impede Redstone's attempt to market and sell the property".