“I recently learned that my elderly Aunt is a victim of Fraud. The police have advised me that some victims of the fraud are considering a lawsuit and that someone may wish to speak to a lawyer on my Aunt’s behalf. My Aunt suffers from dementia and I hold Power of Attorney. Can my Aunt participate in a lawsuit?”
Special rules apply to lawsuits involving people, like your aunt, who suffer from a mental illness and therefore lack capacity at law.
Generally, children under the age of 18 and people who suffer from mental illness, including those who suffer from dementia, must be represented by a litigation guardian within legal proceedings. There are also special rules which apply to how limitation periods apply to persons who lack capacity at law.
Litigation Guardians assume responsibility for litigation on behalf of a litigant who lacks capacity. Litigation Guardians serve an important role and are saddled with significant responsibilities. They assume the responsibilities of retaining and instructing lawyers on behalf of the incapable litigant, and litigation guardians assume personal responsibility for any costs liability incurred as a result of a lawsuit.
However, the litigation guardian plays an essential role in ensuring access to justice for some of society’s most vulnerable people. Without people agreeing to stand as Litigation Guardian people who suffer losses could be left without recourse to the courts.
Generally a lawyer works very closely with a litigation guardian to ensure that risks are properly understood. Lawyers also put in place measures to ensure the risk of personal exposure to the guardian is minimized.
If you are asked to stand as a litigation guardian you should consult with a lawyer before deciding whether or not to stand.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This publication is the 34th installment of our firm’s Legal Matters series, which answers a reader’s question every week. If you have a general legal question that you would like to have addressed please send it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org