Ulterior Motive or Purpose

The ulterior motive or purpose required in an abuse of process action can be in the form of coercion to obtain a collateral advantage that is not properly involved in the proceeding [i].  Surrender of property or the payment of money by the use of process as a threat or a club [ii] or a form of extortion [iii] is an example.

However, if the process is used only for the purpose for which it was designed and intended, then mere ill will or spite towards an adverse party in a proceeding will not constitute an ulterior or improper motive [iv].

In Montgomery GMC Trucks, Inc. v. Nunn [v], the plaintiff was the buyer and defendant was the truck dealer. The plaintiff purchased a truck from the defendant that was plagued with problems and was eventually subjected to a mechanics lien for repairs. The defendant refused to let the possession of the vehicle to the plaintiff until he pays the cost of repairs, while the plaintiff denied paying the bill.  The plaintiff took the truck while on a test drive and the defendant filed a criminal complaint.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant used the writ of attachment to attach the truck and trailer for the improper purpose of mental and financial draining of plaintiff and also an ulterior motive by coercing plaintiff to pay a false and inflated bill.  The plaintiff claimed this to the tort of abuse of process.

The court observed that the defendant did nothing more than pursuing his claim for the repair bill.  Moreover, plaintiff admitted that he owed some money to the defendant.

The court found that the defendant used legal process to collect an unpaid account secured by a lien on plaintiff’s truck and held that there is no abuse of process.

[i] Preferred Props. v. Indian River Estates, 276 F.3d 790 (6th Cir. Ohio 2002)

[ii] Id

[iii] Montgomery GMC Trucks, Inc. v. Nunn, 657 S.W.2d 334 (Mo. Ct. App. 1983)

[iv] Sage International, Ltd. v. Cadillac Gage Co., 556 F. Supp. 381 ( E.D. Mich. 1982)

[v] 657 S.W.2d 334 (Mo. Ct. App. 1983)


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