Proceed Carefully with Malicious Prosecution Actions Arising out of Family
As a general rule, California malicious prosecution actions are dicey propositions insofar as they always subject the plaintiff to a potential Anti-SLAPP motion from the defendant pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. At a minimum, such a motion requires the plaintiff to immediately produce admissible evidence establishing the malicious prosecution claim. The failure to produce such evidence causes the dismissal of the case and may result in the plaintiff having to pay the defendant’s reasonable attorney fees for bringing the motion. Malicious prosecution cases arising out of family law court matters are even more problematic.
As a general rule, for public policy reasons plaintiffs are not entitled to bring malicious prosecution actions stemming from matters originating in the family law courts. Bidna v. Rosen (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 27. A very narrow exception to the Bidna rule was carved out by Nicholson v. Fazeli (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 1091, wherein a wife was permitted to maintain a malicious prosecution complaint against a Trust (which had previously filed a cross-complaint in the wife marital dissolution action) because the Trust’s cross-complaint did not implicate any family law issues (i.e., it did not specifically involve allegations related to marital status, child custody, spousal support, or the division of community property). Because the Trust’s cross-complaint was a fairly rare animal (the vast majority of all family law court pleadings will involve some family law issue), parties contemplating filing a malicious prosecution action arising out of a family law court are strongly advised to consult with an attorney to obtain advice before filing a complaint that might be immediately dismissed and, even worse, might subject the party to paying the other side’s attorney fees.
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