There are a myriad of ways that employers end up in front of a jury. One of the less frequent, but as seen by the result, no less dangerous, is a case for malicious prosecution. They usually arise like the facts in a federal court in Virginia last week. Clyde Bennett, a night shift foreman was fired and charged with grand larceny in connection with the embezzlement of computer equipment.
When that charge was later dropped, he filed a lawsuit against his former employer for malicious prosecution. According to the report from the Richmond Times Dispatch, the jury took less than half an hour to deliver its message. Jury awards $3.2 million to local trucking company employee.
Because the legal standards are relatively high, this verdict is likely to have a long way to go before it becomes a judgment that has to be paid. But it is a good reminder that any time one of the actions that an employer is considering is filing a criminal charge against an employee, that there is at least the potential for what at the time would seem preposterous — that it could be the employer that ends up the defendant.