Advocates for Labor and Progressive Institutions

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Tennessee Supreme Court Rejects Malicious Prosecution Claim Against National Union

May 3, 2023

In a decision advancing important policy considerations, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that a trial court was correct to dismiss on the face of the pleadings a malicious prosecution claim brought against a national union.

The plaintiff, a former official of a chapter of the national union, alleged that the national union's leadership had accused him of misusing union funds and that those accusations led to his indictment in state court on two felony charges. Those felony charges were temporarily deferred for one year pursuant to an agreement between state prosecutors and the former chapter official and then later dropped when the one-year period lapsed. After the charges were dropped, the former chapter official sued the national union for malicious prosecution.

Reversing the decision of the intermediate court of appeals, the Tennessee Supreme Court agreed with the national union's submission that, because the malicious prosecution tort, if given too expansive a scope, can "deter citizens from good-faith reporting of potentially criminal conduct" and have a "chilling effect on the right of access to the courts," a plaintiff should not be permitted to base a malicious prosecution claim on a mere unexplained dismissal of either a civil lawsuit or a criminal charge. The national union was represented by Bredhoff & Kaiser.