Malicious prosecution: When suing back would be meritorious

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
A case was filed against me by my neighbor for slander and perjury that was dismissed by the prosecutor for lack of evidence. Can I file a case for malicious prosecution against her? Please enlighten me.

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Warm regards,
Meng

Dear Meng,
Not all dismissals of actions would consequentially give the respondent the right to file for malicious prosecution. It is indubitable that such remedy requires the termination or dismissal of an action by reason of insufficiency of evidence or lack of probable cause. There must also be a clear showing, however, that the plaintiff initiated his or her action out of spite or for the purpose of annoying, humiliating or placing ridicule on the respondent.

For better understanding, our Supreme Court in one case has defined “malicious prosecution” as “an action for damages brought by one against whom a criminal prosecution, civil suit, or other legal proceeding has been instituted maliciously and without probable cause, after the termination of such prosecution, suit, or other proceeding in favor of the defendant therein. x x x” (Manila Gas Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-44190, 30 October 1980, 100 SCRA 602) In the same case, the court elucidated that the mere fact that a person filed a case against another, which was later on dismissed, does not make the former liable for damages on account of malicious prosecution. In order for the action for damages to prosper, “x x x there must be proof that the prosecution was prompted by a sinister design to vex or humiliate a person, and that it was initiated deliberately by the defendant knowing that his charges were false and groundless. x x x”

Accordingly, we cannot conclude at this point whether it would be meritorious for you to file an action for damages simply because the complaints for slander and perjury that were filed against you by your neighbor were dismissed by the prosecutor for lack of evidence. Apart from the dismissal of the complaints, it is equally essential for you to be able to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that she filed those complaints against you with ill will, or to merely bother, torment or put you to shame.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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