Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Malicious Prosecution Lawsuit Filed in Response to Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Some personal injury lawsuits give rise to several causes of action. This can create major complexities and procedural issues that are best handled by a seasoned Illinois personal injury lawyer. A recent wrongful death case and malicious prosecution case demonstrates the wide variety of legal actions that can arise from one incident.

A licensed physician was married to the plaintiff’s son. The son died in 2008 when he fell off a ladder outside of his residence. The wife was appointed as administrator of the estate because the son died intestate. A dispute arose between the wife and plaintiffs regarding the son’s assets. While that dispute was pending, the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death action against the wife, claiming that she prescribed the son Ambien even though a side effect of the medication was sleepwalking and the wife knew of the son’s existing propensity for sleepwalking. In sum, the complaint alleged that it was negligent and careless to prescribe the son Ambien and that doing so was the proximate cause of his death.

The wife claimed she never received service of the wrongful death complaint and only learned about its existence in 2010 when reading a newspaper article. She alleged that she was contacted to appear on the television show Dr. Phil to discuss Ambien. She also alleged that the claim was reported to her malpractice insurance carrier and other public entities. The probate dispute later resolved and the plaintiffs dismissed their wrongful death lawsuit.

In 2011, the wife filed a complaint against the parents and their attorneys alleging malicious prosecution and defamation. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the lower court granted, finding that the wife did not sufficiently establish an absence of probable cause or a specific injury. The court also found that the defamation allegations were based on information and belief and did not meet the heightened pleading standard of precision and particularity. The wife appealed the dismissal of her complaint and the reviewing appellate court affirmed dismissal of the defamation counts but reversed dismissal of the malicious prosecution counts. The case continued to discovery on the remaining claims and the parents eventually filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. The wife appealed again.

On review, the appellate court concluded that summary judgment was proper because the wife failed to establish the damages element of the malicious prosecution claim. Evidence in the record created a genuine dispute regarding who prescribed Ambien to the decedent. The wife testified that it was actually the decedent’s father who prescribed it. In a civil malicious prosecution claim, the plaintiff is required to plead some injury beyond anxiety, loss of time, attorneys’ fees, and the need to defend one’s reputation. The wife alleged the loss of her professional reputation and patients and that she was required to file a claim under her malpractice insurance carrier. The parents provided information showing that the wife’s damages were minimal at best because the wrongful death lawsuit was withdrawn early in the proceedings. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in the parents’ favor.

If you are facing a complex personal injury matter, it is essential that you speak to an experienced Illinois trial lawyer as soon as possible. At Therman Law Offices, we will dedicate our knowledge and skill to your case to our full ability. To schedule your free consultation call us at 773-545-8849 or contact us online.

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