We all know the type – the business associate, contractor, neighbor or stranger in a parking lot whose go-to move is to threaten a lawsuit. This is usually bullying behavior that ends up going nowhere, but every once in a while, the person actually carries through on his threat, contacts an attorney, and names you in a ridiculous lawsuit. Suddenly you’re in a position where you have to retain an attorney, losing valuable time and incurring legal bills. As frustrating as this situation is, there’s a silver lining in the form of the Dragonetti Act.
The Dragonetti Act is a law that the Pennsylvania legislature passed back in 1980. It was specifically written to provide somebody who has been the victim of “wrongful use of civil proceedings” with the ability to file a claim against the person who initiated or continued the suit.
Succeeding with a Dragonetti Act claim is not as simple as pointing out that the claim against you was filed for petty or pointless reasons. You first need to prove that the claims against you were false and terminated in your favor, and then that the plaintiff acted negligently, without probable cause, and primarily with purposes considered to be a “malicious use of process.” Importantly, in pursuing a Dragonetti Act lawsuit, you do not need to have been arrested or had your property seized. As long as the lawsuit that was maliciously or negligently filed against you is over and you have prevailed, you can file a Dragonetti Act claim – in some circumstances, even if the case was voluntarily withdrawn.
It is important to point out that either an attorney who believed what their client told them or a client who relied upon bad advice from their attorney, can point to that bad information as a defense against a Dragonetti Act claim. If there was good faith reliance, there is a good chance that the defendant will be cleared. However, if found guilty the person against whom the original claim was made can seek compensation for harm that they suffered, including to their reputation, emotional distress, and for attorney’s fees, as well as for any damages resulting from arrest or issues related to their property.
If you’re facing a lawsuit that feels malicious, you need an attorney with experience in Dragonetti Act claims. Contact us today to set up an appointment to discuss your options.