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What is Legal Abuse?

By G. Wiesen
Updated: May 16, 2024

Legal abuse refers to the use of a legal system to cause mental distress on another person, whether that abuse is in the form of a threat to take legal action or within an otherwise legitimate hearing or case. This type of abuse is largely psychological and emotional in nature, and not typically physical, though it can lead to physical consequences as a result of improper legal outcomes. Legal abuse can also lead to a state of mind that is somewhat similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, in which a person feels helpless and is left with residual psychic trauma.

One of the most common, and potentially destructive, forms of legal abuse is the use of the legal system to harass or distress another person. This type of legal abuse can involve someone bringing a baseless civil case against another person, and using the hearing to bring up issues that may damage the reputation of the defendant without presenting any real evidence to support the claims of the plaintiff. Such lawsuits are often referred to as “vexatious litigation” and serve no real purpose, other than to launch an attack on another person.

Legal abuse can also involve the use of legal threats of action as a means of intimidating another person. Someone may threaten legal action against another person, in the hopes that the mere threat will be enough to bring about an end result that is advantageous for the one making the threat. This is especially abusive if the action is threatened against someone who is financially poor, since the person being threatened often dreads the financial obligations involved in a legal dispute. Legal abuse can also stem from the actions of those in the legal system during an otherwise legitimate hearing, such as a lawyer who is friends with a judge and uses the friendship to impact a decision.

This sort of abuse can result in mental trauma that is often referred to as legal abuse syndrome (LAS). LAS is often seen as a somewhat long-term form of trauma that continues to cause a person distress even after the initial incident of abuse has ended. Someone who is the victim of legal abuse through vexatious litigation, for example, may end up being distrustful of lawyers or the legal system in general. This can result in a sense of paranoia or depression due to feelings of helplessness, and may ultimately compound the legal problem that was the initial cause of the abuse.

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Discussion Comments
By bear78 — On Mar 19, 2014

@ZipLine-- Lawsuit abuse basically occurs when a lawsuit is illegitimate. These are usually personal lawsuits that are filed for the purpose of making money even though there is not much basis for a case. These are often liability lawsuits. For example, someone suffers from an injury and sues the company manufacturing his helmet even though the injury has little to do with it. These types of lawsuits are intentionally filed against firms and corporations known for having money. The sole purpose is to somehow win the case and make money off of it. Sometimes, the purpose is to simply disgrace the other party.

It can be difficult to identify lawsuit abuse sometimes because there are many legitimate cases out there.

By ZipLine — On Mar 18, 2014

How do I know if I'm facing lawsuit abuse? And what can I do about it if that's the case?

By discographer — On Mar 18, 2014

I think that legal abuse, the kind where a case is manipulated or those connected to a case are pressured or threatened to change the outcome, occur due to loopholes in legal proceedings.

For example, a plaintiff has to give advance notice to the court and the defendant before calling a witness to court. This may give the defendant opportunity to pressure, threaten or even bribe the witness to change the outcome of the case. This sort of thing happens all the time in legal proceedings all over the world. Unfortunately, legal proceedings which have been established for good reason can be used in a wrong way.

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