British Columbia

After 6 years, $240K in costs and 23 different judges, 'wasteful' B.C. woman banned from suing opponents

Janet Hoessmann went before 23 judges in six years with baseless, doomed-to-fail court applications in a bid to hang onto a Langley, B.C., home she inherited from her father.

Janet Hoessmann 'wouldn't take no for an answer' with groundless court applications, says judge

A B.C. woman who was "remarkably wasteful" with repeat vexatious litigation has accrued more than a quarter of a million in court costs over six years. Janet Hoessmann is now banned from suing her siblings and a Langley, B.C. bank as a result of her refusal to "take 'no' for an answer." (Canadian Press)

A B.C. woman who abused the court system with persistent, baseless filings for years has been declared a vexatious litigant twice over — meaning she's banned from taking legal action against her opponents ever again.

Janet Hoessmann appeared before nearly two dozen judges in six years in a bid to hang onto a Langley home she inherited from her father.

Hoessmann eventually lost the house but now owes more than $240,000 in court costs.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Ball said Hoessmann's actions were "reprehensible and remarkably wasteful' and that she refused to "take the 'no' in a negative court order as an answer."

Vexatious litigation is, by definition, unfounded legal action filed solely to harass an opponent. Proceedings range from unfounded, standalone applications to redundant motions bogging down a legitimate lawsuit.

A vexatious litigant is a person who files these kind of actions. In a judgment posted last week, the justice said Hoessmann fit into this category.

These rulings aren't uncommon in B.C., but lawyers say Hoessmann's case is rare because she accrued nearly a quarter of a million dollars in costs and she's been ordered to pay special costs to the bank she dragged to court over and over.

Trouble begins

Hoessmann's trips to court started after she inherited her late father's Langley home in 2009.

She wasn't able to make payments on the $60,000 mortgage and the Aldergrove Credit Union (ACU) obtained a court order to foreclose on the house in 2012.

A developer bought the property shortly after.

In June 2013, Hoessmann sued the bank and the developer claiming losses to her father's estate. Her suit against the developer was quickly thrown out and the bank applied to have the proceedings dismissed.

Hoessmann inherited her late father's home on 36A Avenue in Langley, B.C. in 2009. She sued the Aldergrove Credit Union after it foreclosed on the house in 2012. (Google Streetview)

Over the next five years, Hoessmann pushed back with whatever legal moves she could — even though she had "no hope of success," the ruling said. She also accused the bank of fraud, misrepresentation and acting in bad faith, all without grounds to do so.

"She just ended up literally opposing anything that she could whether or not there was any legal merit to it," said Jon Goheen, the ACU lawyer.

After two years, the credit union applied to have her declared a vexatious litigant to stop the filings. That application was granted in February, after three more delay-ridden years.​

The Aldergrove Credit Union branch in Langley, B.C. (Google Streetview)

During her fight with the bank, Hoessmann's also went to court against her brothers and stepmother.

She was named executor of her father's estate after he died, but her brothers and stepmother successfully filed to have her removed in September 2013, in an effort to stop her from draining the varied inheritance with court costs.

Hoessmann did not respond to requests for comment.

Costs ordered, but not guaranteed

Hoessmann now owes more than $243,727 in court-ordered costs — four times the old mortgage on her father's home — with special costs to the bank still to be decided.

Asked how she was able to take doomed applications to court over and over, Goheen said B.C.'s court system "has no real gate keeper" to keep someone from filing actions.

"That's probably good, because you want to make sure people are free to bring whatever claims they need to air," the lawyer said. 

"But then you deal with something like this where it can be very time consuming and expensive to resolve."

Hoessman filed dozens of "universally unsuccessful" attempts at adjournment, review, and appeal in her lawsuit against the bank over five years. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

Cameron Wardell, co-chair of the B.C. Bar Association's civil litigation section, said going before 23 different judges and masters of the court over the years likely worked in Hoessmann's favour.

"[New judges] don't know the details of their background, so what they'll do — I think wisely — they'll give her a second chance and a third chance, and she's obviously the kind of person who would abuse that," he said.

The vexatious litigant ruling, the lawyer said, would appear to have been one of her opponents' last options. 

"If she was going to be deterred by costs, it would've been long ago," said Wardell.

"They have to stop the bleeding … and where a person like her is judgment-proof, this kind of order is the only thing that's going to help you."