Two former employees of a large loan business located in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, succeeded in their malicious prosecution against their former employer. Deborah LeBlanc and Teri Shirey left the Cash Back Loans company where they both had held management positions. After their employment terminated, Linda Mills, another employee began reorganizing the accounts of the store which had been in disarray for years. On her inspection she found nineteen loans in sixteen names that she suspected were fraudulent. She brought her suspicion to Ray Pynes, Sr., the owner of the company, and told him she thought it was likely that the Shirey and LeBlanc had stolen the money. Based on Mills’ statement and documentation, the two women were arrested for felony theft. The case was dropped nine months later.
A successful claim for malicious prosecution has several legal elements, all of them inherently important and core to successful litigation. In short, the terms require the case must have been terminated in favor of the present plaintiff, the plaintiff must show the absence of probable cause for arrest and that the defendant acted with malice in bringing the case forward anyway.
The court found that Mills’ investigation into the suspicious loans was lackluster. There was evidence that she had fabricated documents and her testimony varied significantly through the trial process. Mills told the police that employees were not allowed to take loans from the company like LeBlanc and Shirey did when this was patently false and many employees had loans with the company. She told the police that the required documentation for loans was never submitted for Shirey’s loan when the company had drivers’ licenses and several other documents to validate the loan. She also presented inconsistent testimony as to whether or not she actually tried to contact the bogus loan customers. She claimed at one point that she called each one but admitted later that she did not bother to contact any of the sixteen loan customers to try to verify their legitimacy. Three of the “bogus” loan customers came forward claiming they had legitimate loans with the company. One had made payments on the loan after Shirey and LeBlanc left the company. Several of the loans were approved after the two women had left the company. The arrests of Shirey and LeBlanc were made exclusively on Mills’ inaccurate statements. The company had no accounting discrepancies that they could find to support their theft claims. They didn’t even admit bank account records into evidence.
The loan company argued that the plaintiffs failed to prove malice or the company’s intent to mislead the police. Since the case against Shirey and LeBlanc was terminated, this automatically lends support to proof of lack of probable cause and malice. In this case, however, the company’s negligence in finding sufficient facts to justify a reasonable claim of theft was considered malice by the court. The company’s recklessness and indifference to the rights of its former employees leads to a presumption of malice because the company had no probable cause to claim theft as its business records and accounting system were so mishandled that it could not present any proof that Shirey and LeBlanc had stolen from the company. Therefore, their accusation was without merit and completely inconsiderate of the rights of plaintiffs and LeBlanc and Shirey’s claims of defamation and malicious prosecution are successful.
If you believe that you are a victim in a malicious prosecution case, please contact Berniard Law Firm for assistance.