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Rhand has hired your firm to sue Emil Justine based upon Justine's filing of a baseless lawsuit last year alleging that Rhand's subsidiary served a soft drink which was too cold, causing an alleged stomach irritation. Justine ultimately produced no evidence to support his claim, after strenuously trying to settle the case with Rhand for several months before the case was ultimately dismissed in Rhand's favor on a motion for summary judgment. Rhand suffered over $75,000 in legal fees and other expenses related to defending the case. Justine even confided in one of Rhand's employees that he was hoping to get "anything he could to get Rhand back for firing him a year earlier." What tort claims and defenses exist?  

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If I was representing Rhand, I would counsel him to file a lawsuit based on the common law intentional tort, malicious prosecution. There are three elements that need to be satisfied for Rhand's malicious prosecution lawsuit to succeed. First, he must prove that Emil Justine has intentionally instituted and pursued...

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If I was representing Rhand, I would counsel him to file a lawsuit based on the common law intentional tort, malicious prosecution. There are three elements that need to be satisfied for Rhand's malicious prosecution lawsuit to succeed. First, he must prove that Emil Justine has intentionally instituted and pursued a legal action. In tort law, intention is satisfied when it's proved that the defendant acted knowingly when committing the offense. Justine's statement about wanting to get back at Rhand for firing him seems to satisfy this. However, we may need to get more detailed information during discovery to prove it fully.

The second element of a successful malicious prosecution case is that the initial suit was brought without probable cause. Justine's complete lack of evidence suggests this element is also satisfied.

Finally, in order for a malicious prosecution case to be successful, the suit that it's based on must have been dismissed in favor of the victim of the malicious prosecution. Justine's case was dismissed with a summary judgment ruling in favor of Rhand. Therefore, this element of the tort is also satisfied.

Given what we know, it's likely that Rhand's malicious prosecution case would be successful. However, if Justine was able to provide evidence to support his claims, then he may win. Rhand should be able to recuperate at least some of the losses he sustained from Justine's frivolous lawsuit by filing a malicious prosecution suit against him.

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Of course, in this scenario, Emil Justine has filed a torts case, in that they were seeking damages for a civil wrong that they claimed caused damages (the "stomach irritation"). This was a frivolous suit, dismissed by the court as such in a summary judgment, which means the court determined there was no basis for it going to trial.

In many states in the United States, the law does provide for some legal remedy for Rhand. For example, in some states, the law allows for a countersuit, in which the original defendant can recover double the damages from the original suit in frivolous cases. In others, the court awards attorney's fees (around $75,000 in this case) to the party who prevails—in this case, Rhand.

In some states, the law holds the attorney who brought the frivolous claim accountable for the legal fees, as long as it can be proven that they did so knowingly. Sometimes, attorneys who knowingly bring cases like this one can be disciplined by their state's bar association. States are especially hard on lawsuits that are brought against defendants with what the law calls "malicious intent." These measures are intended, of course, to keep frivolous suits like the one referenced in this question from happening in the first place. But it should also be noted that the bar for frivolousness is set fairly high in many states, so that wronged parties have the opportunity to seek redress. In fact, the case mentioned in this scenario evokes the infamous McDonald's "coffee case" in which a woman sued the fast food giant for millions of dollars in damages after spilling scalding hot coffee in her lap. The case is actually a study in the importance of punitive damages in torts law, as it shows how large awards can protect consumers.

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