Abuse of process is the use of a legal process, criminal or civil, to achieve a purpose other than that for which the process is designed.  In an action for abuse of process, an injured person could recover the actual damage s/he suffered as a natural and probable consequence of abuse.  Remote, indefinite, or speculative damages are not recoverable.[i] The compensatory damages recoverable for abuse of process include special damages like physical or mental injury, expenses, loss of time and injury to business, property, or financial standing.[ii]  In Donohoe v. Burd,[iii] court listed the factors to be considered while granting damages to an injured person. The factors include:

  • the injured person’s mental and physical suffering,
  • loss of earnings and expense,
  • medical expense,
  • embarrassment and humiliation, and
  • loss of personal property or freedom.

In Heck v. Humphrey,[iv]  court held that “cognizable injury for abuse of process is limited to the harm caused by the misuse of process, and does not include harm (such as conviction and confinement) resulting from that process’s being carried through to its lawful conclusion.”  Thus, in an action for abuse of process one could not claim damages for an outstanding criminal conviction.  An injured person is entitled only to reasonable compensation for actual damages.  Attorney fees to defend the abuse of process action are recoverable as an item of damages.[v]

[i] Donohoe v. Burd, 722 F. Supp. 1507 (S.D. Ohio 1989)

[ii] Saliem v. Glovsky, 132 Me. 402 (Me. 1934)

[iii] 722 F. Supp. 1507 (S.D. Ohio 1989)

[iv] 512 U.S. 477, 486 (U.S. 1994)

[v] Marlin Oil Corp. v. Barby Energy Corp., 2002 OK CIV APP 92 (Okla. Ct. App. 2002)

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