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Abuse of Process Claims in Pennsylvania

The tort of “abuse of process” is defined as “the use of legal process against another primarily to accomplish a purpose for which it is not designed.”  Lerner v. Lerner, 954 A.2d 1229, 1238 (Pa.Super. 2008).  “To establish a claim for abuse of process it must be shown that the defendant (1) used a legal process against the plaintiff, (2) primarily to accomplish a purpose for which the process was not designed; and (3) harm has been caused to the plaintiff.”  Id. (quoting Shiner v. Moriarty, 706 A.2d 1228, 1236 (Pa.Super. 1998)).  “The gravamen of the misconduct for which the liability stated…is imposed is not the wrongful procurement of legal process or the wrongful initiation of criminal or civil proceedings; it is the misuse of process, no matter how properly obtained, for any purpose other than that which it was designed to accomplish.  Therefore, it is immaterial that the process was properly issued, that it was obtained in the course of proceedings that were brought with probable cause and for a proper purpose, or even that the proceedings terminated in favor of the person instituting or initiating them.  The subsequent misuse of the process, though properly obtained, constitutes the misconduct for which the liability is imposed….”  Lerner, supra at 1238-39 (quoting Rosen v. American Bank of Rolla, 627 A.2d 190, 192 (1993)).

The word “process” as used in the tort of abuse of process “has been interpreted broadly, and encompasses the entire range of procedures incident to the litigation process.”  Id. For example, “process” for purposes of the tort, may include discovery proceedings, the noticing of depositions and the issuing of subpoenas.  Id.  “Abuse of process is, in essence, the use of legal process as a tactical weapon to coerce a desired result that is not the legitimate object of the process.”  Werner v. Plater-Zyberk, 799 A.2d 776, 785 (Pa.Super. 2002).

If you think you might have an action for an abuse of process claim, or if you have been sued for abuse of process, please contact the experienced lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green in Philadelphia, who are licensed to practice law in all courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.