Torts – Prima Facie Tort – Liability for Instigation of Police Investigation or Prosecution

Plaintiff organized a corporation for the purpose of collecting funds from the public to aid cancer victims. Defendant, well-known columnist engaged in soliciting money for a rival cancer fund, was alleged, inter alia, to have instigated state and federal government investigations and prosecutions that resulted in plaintiff being criminally convicted and subsequently acquitted on a new trial after appeal. As a consequence of these actions, public confidence had been destroyed in plaintiff’s cancer fund corporation and it had ceased to function. Plaintiff complained that defendant’s actions were done with the intention of harming plaintiff and had resulted in plaintiff’s loss of salary as director of the cancer fund corporation, and in plaintiff’s loss of his private detective license. On appeal from an appellate division decision ordering the complaint dismissed, held, affirmed. Although generally a lawful act for the malicious purpose of harming plaintiff that does harm plaintiff may be actionable/ in this type of situation the best interests of the public are advanced by exposure of the truth by official action, and such truth should not be shackled by fear of a civil action for damages. Brandt v. Winchell, 3 N.Y. (2d) 628, 148 N.E. (2d) 160 (1958).