While most lawsuits are filed for legitimate reasons, some individuals and businesses initiate cases simply to harm others and to make their lives more difficult. Such frivolous lawsuits can severely impact victims’ lives and could fall under malicious prosecution. Being wrongfully accused of a civil offense, or worse, a crime, can ruin your entire life and have dire consequences on your finances, reputation, and mental health.
If this has happened to you, Morgan & Morgan could help. You do not have to accept getting sued for no reason. Using the legal system simply to harm someone else is illegal. Therefore, you could have recourse and sue for malicious prosecution. Moreover, you could also qualify for damages such as loss of income, attorney’s fees, emotional distress, humiliation, and others. Get started now and contact us for a free case review to determine whether you have a malicious prosecution case.
What Is Malicious Prosecution?
According to the Legal Information Institute (LII), malicious prosecution is the act of filing a lawsuit without grounds and for an improper purpose. In other words, malicious prosecution occurs when one party knowingly initiates a baseless lawsuit against another with the intent to cause harm. Malicious prosecution can include criminal and civil charges alike.
Elements of a Malicious Prosecution Claim
The victim of malicious prosecution could file a tort claim and pursue damages. However, to win a malicious prosecution claim, the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) must prove the following elements:
1. The Original Lawsuit Was Terminated in the Plaintiff’s Favor
The case must have been disposed of or won by the original defendant in a civil suit. A criminal case may qualify for malicious prosecution if dismissed, abandoned, rejected by a jury, or concluded in favor of the defendant.
2. There Was No Probable Cause
The plaintiff has to prove that the defendant never had a case to begin with and filed the lawsuit frivolously simply to inflict harm.
3. The Defendant Pursued the Lawsuit Maliciously
The plaintiff must show that the defendant pursued the previous case with malicious intent or improper purpose.
4. The Plaintiff Suffered Damages
The plaintiff also has to show that they suffered actual damages due to the improper prior lawsuit, such as attorney’s fees, wage losses, reputational damage, and others.
You could sue someone for malicious prosecution if they have brought groundless criminal charges against you. Other examples of when you could have a case can include:
- A police officer filing an untrue report against you
- A witness testifying falsely against you in court
- Law enforcement arrest you without probable cause
- A prosecutor targets you personally
- The court finds you innocent
Anything proving that the original plaintiff filed the lawsuit without grounds, such as statements and witness testimony, can be used as evidence for malicious prosecution.
Civil cases can involve a wide range of lawsuits, including:
- Personal injury
- Disputes over money and property
- Disagreements over estate matters
Evidence for a baseless civil case can be circumstantial, such as the defendant’s behavior during the initial lawsuit.
Individuals and businesses can occasionally suffer harm from the wrongful use of administrative proceedings and regulatory processes. An example would be a client unwilling to pay a company for services rendered. The client files an official complaint with a state contractor board to avoid having to pay the business. The board then moves to punish the business by fining it or revoking its license to operate. If the business wins the administrative case, it can then move forward with a lawsuit for malicious prosecution.
The Original Lawsuit Must Have Been Dismissed
Malicious prosecution claims are designed to stop frivolous litigation. However, the courts have set the bar high to prevent malicious prosecution cases from becoming baseless and frivolous themselves. For example, if the original lawsuit concluded with a settlement agreement between the parties, a malicious prosecution lawsuit is generally not possible. Likewise, if a person was convicted of criminal charges, they cannot usually sue for malicious prosecution. To have a legal claim for malicious prosecution, the initial lawsuit must have been dismissed in favor of the defendant.
What Constitutes Malice in Legal Disputes?
According to the LII, in a legal context, malice is the intention to commit an unlawful act without excuse or justification. Arresting and prosecuting someone on discriminatory grounds or due to holding a grudge, for example, can constitute malice. Filing criminal charges to prosecute a person with the intent of harassing them, frightening them, or damaging their reputation can also amount to malice. However, a plaintiff does not always have to prove malice directly to have a case. Malice is generally implied when there is no probable cause or justification for a lawsuit. Therefore, a frivolous lawsuit without a reasonable cause could qualify for malicious prosecution.
How Morgan & Morgan Can Help
As America’s largest personal injury law firm, we have an army of lawyers, investigators, and legal team members ready and willing to fight for you and work on your case.
- Determine whether you have a legal case for malicious prosecution
- Help you navigate the legal system
- File a malicious prosecution lawsuit on your behalf
- Present evidence for your damages
- Represent you at the legal proceedings
- Present your case powerfully at trial
- Negotiate a fair settlement with the defendant
At Morgan & Morgan, we passionately fight against injustice and have helped thousands of harmed clients receive the compensation they deserve. Over the last three decades, our tenacious attorneys have recovered more than $15 billion in damages for our clients. We could help you too. Morgan & Morgan can match you up with an attorney specializing in malicious prosecution to give you the best chance of achieving the maximum recovery in your case. Most importantly, when we handle your case, you will receive the time, attention, and compassion you deserve.
You Could Receive Compensation With a Malicious Prosecution Lawsuit
If you sue for malicious prosecution, you could recover compensation and punitive damages from the defendant. The types of damages you can recover will depend on your specific case and on whether you were prosecuted with a criminal or civil lawsuit, but can include compensation for:
- Loss of reputation
- Loss of credit
- Emotional distress
- Loss of time and lost wages due to incarceration
- Injury to health
- Deprivation of society with family
- Money spent on defending groundless civil or criminal charges
You could also recover considerable punitive damages, particularly if your reputation was publicly harmed and you lost business revenue, clients, and income. In such cases, the courts might impose significant punitive damages to penalize the defendant and punish them for their misconduct. Since proof of the defendant’s intent is required to win a malicious prosecution lawsuit, punitive damages are frequently awarded to plaintiffs who qualify for compensatory awards.