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Fourth Circuit Upholds Record Malicious Prosecution Award

Published by on July 11, 2012

On June 21, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a record $1.7 million verdict in favor of a shipping company’s employee for malicious prosecution.  More after the break. Clyde L. Bennett’s claim arose after his supervisor accused him of stealing computers from the company’s loading dock.  Charges were later […]

On June 21, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a record $1.7 million verdict in favor of a shipping company’s employee for malicious prosecution.  More after the break.

Clyde L. Bennett’s claim arose after his supervisor accused him of stealing computers from the company’s loading dock.  Charges were later dropped against Bennett.  A malicious prosecution claim is heavily disfavored in Virginia.   Bennett needed to prove that the company lacked probable cause and acted maliciously at the time it instituted criminal proceedings against him. 

The award was warranted, the Court held, because the company conducted a “brief and ham – handed investigation” into the theft, resulting in Bennett’s arrest in full view of other loading dock employees.  There was virtually no evidence of wrongdoing against Bennett other than the report of untrustworthy, unreliable witnesses.  Bennett’s arrest and its lingering effects on his ability to get a job and “to present himself with the dignity to which he was accustomed” worked a profound injury to his well-being. 

Although similar circumstances of suspected employee wronging may not lead to the same level of exposure, this case highlights the importance of conducting a fair investigation.  For further information, see Bennett v. R&L Carriers Shared Services, LLC.

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