Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Malicious prosecution claim comes back to life

We don't know exactly what happened in this case, but it looks like the plaintiff was arrested for assault after his rear-view mirror allegedly struck an officer when he drove away from the police. Plaintiff sued for malicious prosecution, and the district court threw out the case. The Court of Appeals revives the case.

The case is Coleman v. City of New York, a summary order decided on September 22. In dismissing the claim, the district court credited the testimony of two witnesses to the incident. But plaintiff testified that none of this happened the way the police said it did. And the officers' testimony about what happened contained several inconsistencies.

I guess this case is summary judgment 101. Most of us can recite the summary judgment standard in our sleep, and some judges do not even bother with a recitation of the standard in writing their opinions. But the summary judgment standard is violated all the time. Although many false arrest and malicious prosecution claims are dismissed before trial because the police need only show an objective basis to arrest the plaintiff, the summary judgment standard was violated here. The Court of Appeals (Walker, Wesley and Keenan [D.J.]) reinstates the malicious prosecution claim for the simple reason that plaintiff can win the case at trial if the jury sees the evidence in his favor..

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