ABB Inc. v. Tate & Renner
To prevail on an abuse-of-process claim against an attorney, a plaintiff may be required to allege specific misconduct that was intended to cause specific injury, outside the normal contemplation of litigation. The plaintiff alleged the following facts, which have not been proved. Suresh Ahluwalia hired the defendant law firm, Tate & Renner, to represent Ahluwalia in a claim against ABB Dubai. Tate & Renner's claim on behalf of Ahluwalia, alleging that ABB Dubai violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, was dismissed, because it involved employment that took place outside the U.S. The defendant allegedly knew that the act requires conduct in the U.S. when it filed a complaint against the plaintiff, ABB Inc. ABB Inc. sued Tate & Renner, alleging abuse of process. "An action for abuse of process lies against any person using a legal process against another in an improper manner or to accomplish a purpose for which it was not designed," pursuant to the Connecticut Supreme Court's 2005 decision, Laborina v. McDonald. "[A]lthough attorneys have a duty to their clients and to the judicial system not to pursue litigation that is utterly groundless, that duty does not give rise to a third party action for abuse of process unless the third party can point to specific misconduct intended to cause specific injury outside of the normal contemplation of private litigation," pursuant to the Connecticut Supreme Court's 1987 decision, Mozzochi v. Beck. Here, the plaintiff's complaint merely alleged that the defendant knew that legal claims brought against the plaintiff lacked merit. The plaintiff's complaint did not allege any facts that indicated specific misconduct that caused an injury that took place outside the normal course of litigation. "The plaintiff's conclusory allegations that it has suffered `damages' and that the claims were brought `under pretext,' " wrote the court, "do not, without more, allege sufficiently a cause of action for abuse of process." The court granted the defendant's motion to strike the plaintiff's abuse-of-process count. A Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act claim cannot be maintained against an adversary's attorney, and the court also granted the defendant's motion to strike the plaintiff's CUTPA count.