The Case: Pullen v. Textron, Inc. , 845 S.W.2d 777 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1992).
The Basic Facts: Plaintiff filed a suit for malicious prosecution against the defendants. The court directed verdict in favor of defendants with regard to the plaintiff's claim based on a prior civil proceeding, but allowed the plaintiff's claim with regard to a prior criminal prosecution related to the same matter to go to the jury. The jury returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff damages in the amount of $45,000.00 in compensatory damages and $150,000.00 in punitive damages.
The Bottom Line:
- "This was a suit for malicious prosecution and the elements of damages recoverable in a malicious prosecution suit are those which 'proximately result to the plaintiff, his person, property, or reputation from a previous unsuccessful civil or criminal proceeding which was prosecuted without probable cause and with malice.' Ryerson v. American Surety Co., [373 S.W.2d 436, 437 (Tenn. 1963)]." 845 S.W.2d at 780.
- "In this case the proof showed that the out-of-pocket expenses incurred by Mr. Pullen in the prior criminal proceeding were minimal. Mr. Pullen spent approximately $450.00 for attorney's fees and a bond in connection with the criminal prosecution. He missed three days from work at a cost of approximately $180.00 per day. The Daily Herald, a Columbia, Tennessee newspaper, carried an item concerning Mr. Pullen's arrest on page 2. This item measured one-half inch by two inches and simply stated that he had been charged with passing a worthless check in excess of $100.00 and that bond had been set at $1,000.00. There was testimony that Mr. Pullen's family was upset by the criminal proceeding." Id.
- "The proof showed that in April 1990, Mr. Pullen lost his job when his employer closed its Nashville terminal. There is nothing in the record to show that the loss of this job had anything to do with the actions of Textron. Mr. Pullen was out of work for some thirteen months and during that time he sent out resumes but received no responses. The proof produced by Mr. Pullen on this point showed that some potential employers check records that might reveal a criminal arrest. However, there was no proof that any potential employer had checked any record in Mr. Pullen's case or that his arrest on the insufficient funds check had any part in his failure to obtain work during that thirteen month period." Id.
- "We are of the opinion that the material evidence does not support an award of $45,000.00 in compensatory damages and that under the circumstances, it is excessive and indicates that the jury was motivated by passion, prejudice or caprice." Id.