In a malicious prosecution case where the underlying case was criminal rather than civil, a plaintiff “can pursue a claim for malicious prosecution only if an objective examination, limited to the documents disposing of the proceeding or the applicable procedural rules, indicates the termination of the underlying criminal proceeding reflects on the merits of the case and was due to the innocence of the accused.”
In Mynatt v. National Treasury Employees Union, Chapter 39, — S.W.3d —, No. M2020-01285-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Oct. 5, 2023), plaintiff filed a malicious prosecution claim based on an underlying criminal case. Plaintiff alleged that after he criticized defendant union, defendant accused him of misusing union funds and caused him to be charged with two state felonies. In the criminal case, the prosecutor retired the charges against plaintiff for one year and never revived them, such that the charges were formally dismissed when the year passed.
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the malicious prosecution claim, arguing that “plaintiff could not show that the retirement and dismissal constituted a favorable termination on the merits, which is an essential element of a malicious prosecution claim.” The trial court agreed and dismissed the case, but the Court of Appeals reversed dismissal, ruling that “there are outcomes other than acquittal following trial that can constitute a favorable termination and it is plausible that the charges were dismissed due to a lack of evidence.” (internal citation omitted). In this opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that the trial court was correct to dismiss the case.