Have you ever been the subject of a frivolous lawsuit? Though nobody likes to be sued, there’s a big difference between being sued over something that is — at least — a legitimate question of law or liability and being sued by somebody who seems to have nothing better to do. Worse still is when somebody is suing you simply to take up your valuable time or to make you spend money on defending yourself. It happens more often than you’d think, and in recognition of this, the Pennsylvania legislature passed The Dragonetti Act, giving those who have been victimized by this type of abuse of process a way to pursue justice for themselves.
The Dragonetti Law was passed nearly 40 years ago. Officially called the “Wrongful Use of Civil Proceedings” Act, it specifically makes a person who initiates a civil proceeding against another liable for the wrongful use of civil process when two requirements are present. They are:
- The suit was filed in a negligent way or without probable cause. This requirement also includes suits that are filed for a purpose other than proper discovery or adjudication of a claim.
- The suit has already been terminated in favor of the person who the original suit was filed against.
Notably, the person who has been dragged through the court system does not have to have been penalized through either arrest or loss of assets for them to have the right to bring the suit under the Dragonetti Act. This is different from the long-standing common law that the Dragonetti Act replaced, which said that wrongfully accused defendants could file suit for “malicious use of process” or “malicious prosecution.”
It’s important to keep in mind that if you’re still in the process of defending yourself against what you think of as a frivolous suit, you can’t move forward with a Dragonetti claim. The new suit can’t be brought until the original claim is over, though it does not necessarily have to have been resolved: if the original plaintiff simply dropped or withdrew the case voluntarily, you may still be able to pursue your claim. It’s also important to know that a Dragonetti Act claim can be defeated if the original attorney or plaintiff can show that they believed that their case was valid.
If you find yourself in this position, you need to speak to an attorney who is experienced in representing clients in Dragonetti Act claims. Contact us today to set up an appointment to discuss your case.