Malicious prosecution is an intentional tort that is typically disfavored in Illinois courts and thus has very strict elements that must be met to move forward with a claim. Courts believe that the tort inhibits open access to the court process and are wary to find merit in these claims. However in many personal injury instances, one party has been severely hurt by another, and it is foreseeable that when emotions are high there may be a tendency to be overzealous in the representation, and thus the need for this tort remains.
For a malicious prosecution case the plaintiff must show:
- A defendant brought the suit without probable cause. Note that plaintiffs who initiate lawsuits in good faith are not liable.
- The underlying action for the malicious prosecution claim was decided in his or her favor;
- An additional “special” injuries or damages.
- Special damages in civil proceedings include a seizure of property, or
- Injuries or damages that go beyond the normal hassles of being involved in a lawsuit. This has to go beyond things such as anxiety, embarrassment, and loss of time or income are not sufficient to establish special damages.
The main case in Illinois concerning this tort is the case of Cult Awareness Network v. Church of Scientology International, 177 Ill.2d 267 (1997). In this case, Cult Awareness Network sued the Church of Scientology alleging that the Church conspired to bankrupt the organization by filing numerous lawsuits in jurisdictions around the country, and all were terminated in favor of the plaintiff in this case. Illinois courts found in favor of the Church finding that the plaintiff did not satisfy the special injury requirement and that dismissals are not favorable results because the cases were not decided on the merits. The Illinois Supreme Court, however, reversed the decision adopting the Restatement (Second) of Torts which states that a favorable result can be a dismissal. Settlements are not considered favorable rulings. The Supreme Court also reversed the lower courts with regard to the special injury ruling finding that the plaintiff did meet the actual requirements. It is believed that the multiple lawsuits in such a short period of time were a substantial factor considered in the case.
In later cases, an additional requirement of malice is needed for those seeking to establish malicious prosecution cases. Note that an improper motive must be shown that goes beyond willful and wanton conduct.
Medical malpractice cases are the exception in Illinois and cases of this nature do not need to plead or prove special damages to maintain an action.
For criminal cases, there is also a cause of action for malicious prosecution.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you were injured in an accident involving an air carrier please call one of our attorneys at David K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529