Individuals and businesses named as defendants in civil lawsuits, including contract disputes and commercial litigation, can spend a considerable amount of time and money to prove their innocence. In most states, defendants who receive a judgment in their favor have no way to recover for the financial and emotional costs associated with defending a lawsuit. This is not always the case in Pennsylvania. Under Pennsylvania’s Dragonetti Act, defendants who are successful in defeating the claims against them may pursue their costs against the non-prevailing plaintiffs in some cases.
Wrongful Use of Legal Proceedings
The Dragonetti Act addresses the wrongful use of civil proceedings in Pennsylvania. By providing a deterrent against the filing of malicious or frivolous lawsuits, the law is aimed at reducing litigation. Under the law, an individual who wrongfully brings a civil legal proceeding against another party faces legal liability for their actions. Parties must have a reasonable belief in facts supporting their claim. To obtain compensation, successful defendants must show the plaintiff acted without probable cause or without the intent to resolve the case and the defendant won a judgment in their favor.
In addition to the costs of attorney fees and legal expenses, prevailing defendants who later bring a Dragonetti suit against the losing plaintiff can recover damages for lost wages, harm to their reputation, and the emotional distress caused by their involvement in the legal proceeding. Courts also will award punitive damages in more egregious cases.
Burden of Proof
To successfully bring a Dragonetti claim, the plaintiff must prove the party filing suit against them knew at the time of filing the suit was baseless. This means the suit was filed with gross negligence, without probable cause, or for a malicious purpose. Lawsuits filed for the sole purpose of harassing another party, costing them money in legal fees, or as a form of retaliation fall within this category.
Another common burden of proof issue occurs with proving the party filing the Dragonetti claim was successful in the underlying matter. Not every case ends with a judgment or jury decision. Proving the defendant prevailed in the underlying matter can be a difficult hurdle to overcome in cases where a settlement was made during the litigation, when the case was voluntarily dismissed, or was withdrawn for strategic reasons. Courts will look carefully at the facts in each case to determine if the defendant received a favorable result in the underlying matter.
Proving a Dragonetti claim can be difficult as many plaintiffs may honestly believe in the merit of their lawsuits regardless of the facts. Another common defense is when the filing plaintiff relied in good faith on their legal representation. Given this high burden of proof, individuals or companies seeking compensation under the Dragonetti Act should consult with an experienced Philadelphia business lawyer to help them navigate the litigation process.
Philadelphia Business Lawyers at Harty Law Group Represent Businesses in Dragonetti Lawsuits
If you or your small business has been unfairly named as a defendant in a meritless lawsuit, the experienced Philadelphia business lawyers at Harty Law Group are ready to assist you. By filing a Dragonetti lawsuit against those individuals responsible for bringing false claims against your business, you may be able to obtain compensation for legal fees, lost wages, and more. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, to serve small businesses owners throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule an initial consultation with an experienced Philadelphia business lawyer at Harty Law Group today, call us at 267-383-3899 or contact us online.