Trial Court Property Granted Summary Judgment on Breach of Contract and Abuse of Process Claims.

The parties were neighbors in a subdivision with a homeowner’s association. To live in the subdivision, the parties had to sign a waiver stating that they would not take any action to contest or interfere with any development in the community “so long as such development is consistent with the Land Use Approvals.” The plaintiff challenged a decision from the local development review board granting the defendants a permit to build a pole barn on their property. The plaintiff also filed a civil action against the defendants, contesting their building of the pole barn. The defendants filed counterclaims alleging breach of contract, abuse of process, and other torts. Specifically, the defendants argued that the plaintiff had violated the association’s waiver by challenging the construction of their pole barn. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff on the counterclaims, and the appellate court affirmed. The court ruled that a waiver of a right to participate in a municipal land use permit proceeding would have to be “unmistakable,” a standard that this waiver did not meet. Plaintiff was not given full notice of its meaning. The court also found that judgment was properly entered on the abuse of process claim because there was no evidence supporting the claim. Free and uninhibited access to the courts was an important right for all citizens, and the fact that the plaintiff was an attorney did not lessen her rights. Weinstein v. Leonard, No. 15-075, 2015 VT 136, 2015 Vt. LEXIS 114 (Vt. Sup. Ct. Nov. 13, 2015).