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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ind. Decisions - One Indiana opinion today from the 7th Circuit

In Maureen Reynolds v. U.S. (SD Ind., Judge Barker), a 12-page opinion, Judge Rovner writes:

In August 2003 a security guard with General Security Services Corporation stood on the roof of the Minton-Capehart Federal Building in Indianapolis, Indiana—inexplicably naked, alone, and locked out of the building. Later that day Maureen Reynolds, a General Security officer, learned of the incident, but not the nudity, and wrote up a report. The Federal Protective Service (FPS) launched an investigation as well, which culminated in a state prosecution against Reynolds for false reporting. Reynolds’s bench trial resulted in an acquittal. But the state criminal proceedings cost Reynolds her job, so she sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b)(1), 2671-80, asserting that FPS investigators had initiated a malicious prosecution by submitting knowingly false information to the Marion County prosecutor and the Marion County Superior Court. The district court dismissed Reynolds’s complaint for lack of subject- matter jurisdiction, see FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1), citing various grounds, including that the discretionary-function exception to the FTCA shielded the actions of FPS investigators, see 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a). We disagree and remand for further proceedings. * * *

The FTCA to one side, we still must evaluate whether Reynolds has stated a claim for relief under Indiana tort law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1); Parrott, 536 F.3d at 635. In order to prevail on a claim of malicious prosecution in Indiana, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant, acting with malice and without probable cause, instituted or caused to be instituted a prosecution that terminated in the plaintiff’s favor. See City of New Haven v. Reichhart, 748 N.E.2d 374, 378 (Ind. 2001); Glass v. Trump Indiana, Inc., 802 N.E.2d 461, 466-67 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004). Probable cause exists if, following some reasonable investigation, a reasonably intelligent and prudent person in the defendant’s position would believe that the accused committed the crime charged. Glass, 802 N.E.2d at 467. “[T]he element of malice,” meanwhile, “may be inferred from a total lack of probable cause, from the failure to make a reasonable or suitable inquiry, and from a showing of personal animos- ity.” Kroger Food Stores, Inc. v. Clark, 598 N.E.2d 1084, 1089 (Ind. Ct. App. 1992). Reynolds has alleged explicitly these elements, and we see no further obstacle to her complaint at this stage. We do not, of course, vouch for the accuracy of Reynolds’s allegations; our holding is merely that she has stated a claim for relief.

For these reasons we VACATE the district court’s dis- missal and REMAND for further proceedings.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 9, 2008 11:15 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions