British Columbia

B.C. family declared 'vexatious litigants' can no longer file legal action without judge's permission

Tong (Heintz) Sun, his father Jinzhong Sun and his mother Lizhun Zhao will no longer be allowed to launch legal actions without first getting permission from a judge.

Tong Sun, Jinzhong Sun, Lizhun Zhao filed numerous claims against Airbnb hosts, Mercedes, among several others

Tong 'Heintz' Sun and his parents will have to seek leave from a judge before filing any new legal claims, following a decision by a B.C. Supreme Court justice. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The B.C. family behind a mountain of lawsuits related to matters like multiple failed Airbnb listings and a leased cargo van involved in an alleged crime spree are no longer allowed to launch legal actions without permission from a judge.

Tong (Heintz) Sun, his father Jinzhong Sun and his mother Lizhun Zhao were declared "vexatious litigants" by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in a decision posted online last week.

Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick wrote in her Nov. 30 judgment that she'd seen strong evidence of abuse of process by the family in their numerous self-represented civil claims against homeowners, the City of Burnaby, the B.C. government, a Richmond furniture store, King's College of London and Mercedes-Benz.

"Many of the claims have been simply duplicated and refiled under a different action number despite that the claims were substantially advanced in earlier actions," Fitzpatrick said.

"There is also evidence that the Sun parties repeatedly schedule applications and then adjourn them with little notice. There is evidence that, on many occasions, Heintz failed to attend hearings when scheduled."

A vexatious litigant is, by definition, someone who repeatedly files unfounded legal actions for improper purposes, which could include harassment.

In this case, the vexatious litigant ruling stems from three separate claims Tong (Heintz) Sun and his parents have filed against entities connected with Mercedes-Benz. Lawyers for five other targets of the family's lawsuits were represented during hearings on the matter.

"Mercedes asserts in its materials that, if the Sun parties are not declared vexatious litigants, they will continue to bring court proceedings which serve no purpose but to waste the time and resources of the courts and the defendants," Fitzpatrick said.

The judge also noted that the car company had described many of the family's claims as "fanciful."

"The Sun parties are seeking damage claims in the billions of dollars which, on the face of the claims themselves, would appear to be highly unlikely," Fitzpatrick said.

Leased van linked to window-smashing spree

The family's claims against Mercedes-Benz were filed after the car company determined Sun had breached the terms of his lease on a Metris cargo van when it was seized by Vancouver police, court documents show.

Sun was arrested in April 2020 on suspicion of smashing car windows at multiple auto dealerships and then fleeing in the cargo van. An application filed in B.C. Supreme Court by the car company alleges officers had to use a spike strip and then pin the Metris between police vehicles to get it to stop, causing serious damage to the van.

Sun faces several criminal charges in connection with that incident and is currently awaiting trial.

Sun filed suit against the owners of this Burnaby house after they cancelled his lease in response to a warning from the city about bylaw violations. (Google Street View)

Sun and his parents have also filed claims against the owners of at least three Lower Mainland homes he says he leased with the intention of listing them on short-term rental sites like Airbnb.

Those listings floundered for a variety of reasons, including poor reviews from guests and bylaw infractions, according to court documents. Sun has claimed the owners are responsible for the losses he's suffered as a result.

At least one of those lawsuits backfired, ending with Sun being ordered to pay $550 in legal expenses to the owners of a Burnaby home where an Airbnb listing was shut down by the city.

According to Fitzpatrick's judgment, Sun did not appear in court for the vexatious litigant hearings, but his parents attended.

Zhao objected to Mercedes-Benz's application for special costs to be awarded against her family — and to the ruling in general.

"I object. We are not the vexatious litigant. We have the reasonable plan," she told the court.

The judge ordered that ordinary costs be levelled against the family instead. The judgment does not include a dollar amount.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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