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My town has pursued me civilly for violations without merit and continues…

My town has pursued me civilly for violations without merit and continues to; is there anything I can do to recoup the damage done?

29 June 2024

Answer: Yes, you may have a claim for malicious prosecution and/or abuse of process.  In Massachusetts, malicious prosecution includes not only the malicious bringing of criminal charges, the situation normally thought of, but also applies to the malicious bringing of civil claims.  And you may have a claim for abuse of process, if indeed “process” in the legal sense under Massachusetts law was used, inter alia.

In Hubbard v. Beatty & Hyde in 1961 the Supreme Judicial Court reiterated “[w]hatever the law may be elsewhere . . .the action for malicious prosecution in this Commonwealth is not confined to the wrongful initiation of criminal proceedings; it may be maintained for the unjustifiable initiation of a civil action.”  343 Mass. 258, 260-61 (1961).  The only substantive difference is that the analysis in a civil context allows the tortfeasor more latitude in bringing a civil claim, so it is somewhat more difficult to prevail in the civil context.  Id. at 262.  Thus, the law is there for the right factual scenario to support a claim for malicious prosecution with maliciously brought civil claims in Massachusetts.

Abuse of process is a different tort with three different elements, most importantly one must use “process” as it has been defined and it is not relevant whether the claim or charges were merited.   Gutierrez v. Mass. Bay Transp. Auth., 437 Mass. 396, 407-408 (2002).  In other words, the original claim could have had merit or not, but either way it must be brought for an improper or ulterior purpose.  In bringing such a claim, there are important considerations that exceed the scope of this blog, so good quality legal advice is advised before proceeding.

The damages are the same under both torts, thus, if you prevail in one there may not be a need to determine whether you have prevailed in the other. Millennium Equity Holdings, LLC v. Mahlowitz, 456 Mass. 627, 645 (2010).  Generally, they are fairly broad and are all the natural and probable consequences and include costs in defending the wrongful action, emotional harm, and harm to reputation.  Id.

In the event you find yourself in a similar situation, feel free to contact the author to see what his office could offer you in terms of a possible representation.