Malicious Prosecution: DAVIDSON V. CASTNER-KNOTT DRY GOODS CO., INC. [COA; 4/28/2006]

TORTS – Malicious Prosecution
DATE: 4/28/2006
CA reversed and remanded the SJ granted to Castner-Knott on Davidson’s malicious prosecution claim.  The underlying facts are as follows.  In early October 1997, Davidson filed a report with the Nashville Police Department stating that checks on her account with First Union bank had been stolen.  She also noted that her account with First Union had been closed for one year.  In late November 1997, Caster-Knott accepted a check for approximately $350 that was drawn on Davidson’s account.  The check was dishonored and returned to Caster-Knott as account closed.  In March 1998, a Caster-Knott employee filed a criminal complaint against Ms. Davidson through the Warren County Attorney’s office.  Eventually, the Warren County grand jury issued an indictment against Davidson for Theft by Deception over $300 — a felony.  The Warren Circuit Court later signed a bench warrant for her arrest.  Three years later, while traveling in Ohio, Davidson was arrested on the warrant.  She waived extradition and was transported to Warren County.  Ultimately, the Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney who was prosecuting the case moved the trial court to dismiss it without prejudice.

The prosecutor stated that two factors prompted his decision to move for a dismissal: (1) Davidson’s police report stating the checks had been stolen; and (2) the fact that Caster-Knott no longer did business in Warren County.  The trial court dismissed the case "without" prejudice even though Davidson argued that any dismissal should be with prejudice.  Davidson later filed a malicious prosecution suit against Caster-Knott.  Caster moved for SJ, arguing that the dismissal "without prejudice" was not a termination of proceedings in her favor.  The trial court agreed and dismissed Davidson’s claim.  On appeal, the CA held that one of the elements of a malicious prosecution claim is that the initial criminal (or civil) proceedings were terminated in the defendant’s favor.  It then held as a matter of law that a dismissal of a criminal case — whether with or without prejudice — constitutes a final termination for purposes of a malicious prosecution claim.

Digested by Stephen Keller.

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