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Favorable Termination Standard Extends to Criminal Cases in Tennessee

Updated: May 30, 2023

For close to 20 years, Tennessee law has provided that a civil defendant can pursue a claim for malicious prosecution only if the underlying action was terminated on the merits and indicates the innocence of the defendant. Parrish v. Marquis, 172 S.W.3d 526, 531 (Tenn. 2005). The Tennessee Supreme Court recently extended that rule to criminal cases.

Mynatt v. Nat’l Treas. E’ees Union, Chapter 39, et al., No. 75CC1-2020-CV-77158 (May 4, 2023), involved a former union leader falsely accused and indicted for misusing union funds. After the criminal charges were dismissed, he filed a malicious prosecution action against the union, local chapter, and individuals involved. Those defendants moved to dismiss the suit on grounds that Mynatt did not sufficiently plead that the criminal proceedings terminated in his favor.

On review, the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that the favorable termination standard from Parrish, supra, and Himmelfarb v. Allain, 380 S.W.3d 35 (Tenn. 2012) should also apply to malicious prosecution actions where the underlying action was a criminal case.

The court held that, as in civil cases, a fact-intensive and subjective inquiry is prohibited. Thus, as with a civil case, a plaintiff may pursue a claim for malicious prosecution following the dismissal of a criminal case only if an objective examination, limited to documents disposing of the proceeding or the applicable procedural rules, indicates that the underlying proceeding terminated on the merits and was due to the innocence of the accused. In Mynatt’s case, the court determined that he had not met the favorable termination standard and upheld the dismissal of his malicious prosecution action.

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