Being named a defendant in a lawsuit is a frustrating and stressful experience, but this is especially true when the claim against you is meritless. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people to file lawsuits for the sole purpose of creating aggravation or embarrassment. Though there is little that can be done while the case is going on, once the claim against you has been terminated in your favor, you can turn around and take legal action against them. In some cases, the appropriate charge is malicious prosecution, but in the state of Pennsylvania, you may alternatively be able to file a special category of lawsuit known as a Dragonetti claim. Let’s look at the difference between the two.
The more commonly applied claim falls under the broader category of malicious prosecution. You can pursue this legal action if you can show that the suit filed against you caused a specific harm (such as loss of business, arrest, loss of property); that the case was resolved in your favor (either by a ruling that you were innocent, the case being withdrawn or abandoned); and that there was no reasonable basis for the case having been filed in the first place; and that the intent of filing the case was malicious.
By contrast, a Dragonetti claim is a narrower law that is only available in the state of Pennsylvania. It is specifically filed in response to having a civil lawsuit filed against in a grossly negligent way. To win a Dragonetti claim, you need to show that a ruling was granted in your favor as well as that the original plaintiff acted with malicious intent or pursued the claim in a “grossly negligent manner or without probable cause.”
Dragonetti claims can be filed against either attorneys who bring cases on behalf of their clients, the original plaintiff who brought the suit against the original defendant, or both. An attorney’s best defense against a Dragonetti claim is to say that they were relying upon what their clients told them, while the client’s best defense is to say that they were acting on the advice of their lawyer.
The distinction between malicious prosecution and a Dragonetti violation is complex and best assessed by an experienced attorney. If you have been named in a frivolous or malicious lawsuit and suffering damages as a result, we can guide you through the options that are available to you, and tell you which is most likely to deliver the outcome you’re looking for. Contact us today to set up a time for us to chat.