Whitney v. J.M. Scott Associates Inc.
Arbitration does not qualify as civil action for purposes of a vexatious litigation claim. The plaintiff, Walter Whitney, sued the defendants, alleging that the defendants breached their promise to employ the plaintiff for five years and to provide the plaintiff an option to purchase. The parties' employment and stock option contracts included arbitration clauses. During arbitration the defendants allegedly informed the plaintiff they would not continue to pay the arbitration fees. The plaintiff sued the defendants, who filed a counterclaim alleging vexatious litigation. The plaintiff moved to strike the vexatious litigation counterclaim. The parties disputed whether arbitration can form the basis for vexatious litigation. The Connecticut Supreme Court has found that "a proceeding is not a civil action when it is neither commenced by service of process nor controlled by rules of pleading," pursuant to Board of Education v. Tavares Pediatric Center, a 2006 decision. "Based on the nature and purpose of arbitration proceedings, and considering the most effective way of carrying out this purpose," wrote the court, "a contractual arbitration proceeding is not a civil action and should not form the basis for a vexatious litigation claim." The court granted the plaintiff's motion to strike the vexatious litigation counterclaim.