Submitted by New Jersey Civil Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
Do people make fake police reports for personal reasons? Yes. If you are a victim of this is there a civil remedy? Yes. The claim is called malicious prosecution. It is exactly the subject matter of Dixon v. Kargman, decided by the Appellate Division on November 6th. Kargman is the principal of a trucking company by the name of BK Trucking. Back in 2008 he received a call from a man who claimed to have seen one of his truckers (the plaintiff in this case) siphoning fuel from his truck. Kargman supposedly conducted his own investigation and found siphoning tools in his employee’s truck. He then proceeded to call the police and sign a criminal complaint. The plaintiff was indicted for theft but acquitted. After his acquittal, Dixon made a civil claim for malicious prosecution.
Malicious prosecution claims are disfavored by the courts because they may discourage people from making criminal complaints. But there are a lot of elements to prove in order to bring a malicious prosecution claim which should protect individuals from frivolous claims brought against them. The elements include:
- the defendant (in the civil suit) instituted the criminal action against the plaintiff
- motivated by malice
- absence of probable cause
- case ended in favor of plaintiff (would be defendant in the criminal case)
In the present case all those things occurred and the trial judge found Dixon’s evidence to be more organized and in line with his theory of the case. No motive for Kargman’s malicious prosecution is revealed in the opinion of the Appeal but the trial judge found it to be actuated by malice. In its deferential review of the trial court’s decision, the Appellate Division affirmed.