“A malicious prosecution claim could succeed only if Wantman Group lacked probable cause . . . but the Court found that Wantman Group did have probable cause” and affirmed summary judgment.
Agreeing with arguments made by Thomas & LoCicero, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment dismissing a highly contentious malicious prosecution lawsuit arising from voluminous public records requests and a failed RICO claim. DeMartini v. Town of Gulf Stream, et al., --- F.3d ---, 2019 WL 6207952 (11th Cir. Nov. 21, 2019).
Denise DeMartini was the Treasurer and later Director of Citizens Awareness Foundation, Inc. (CAFI). In a prior lawsuit, the Town of Gulf Stream and Wantman Group, Inc. alleged that DeMartini, CAFI, and others “pummeled the town with nearly 2,000 public records requests, many of them frivolous, with no intention of actually reviewing the results.” The Town and Wantman Group asserted RICO claims against DeMartini and others, but those claims were eventually dismissed. As a result, DeMartini sued Wantman Group for malicious prosecution, and the Town for First Amendment Retaliation.
Both Wantman Group and the Town won summary judgment on DeMartini’s claims. Affirming summary judgment on the malicious prosecution claim, the Eleventh Circuit held that a malicious prosecution claim could succeed only if Wantman Group lacked probable cause to bring its prior RICO claim. But the Court found that Wantman Group did have probable cause because, based upon a year-long investigation, substantial information supported a reasonable belief that DeMartini and others “had committed fraud through their participation in an extortionate scheme involving fraudulent public records requests, false settlement demands, and subsequent multiple lawsuits designed to obtain attorney’s fees as opposed to the requested records.” The Court likewise affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Town on the First Amendment Retaliation claim.
Wantman Group was represented by Thomas & LoCicero attorneys Jim McGuire and Mark Caramanica, along with Robert Tacher of Peterson Bernard.
With offices in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, Thomas & LoCicero is a Florida-based law firm with a national practice focused on Business Litigation, Intellectual Property & Marketing, Media & Entertainment Law, and Data Privacy & Security. Clients benefit from the firm’s extensive knowledge and experience in complex commercial litigation, business torts, breach of contract, antitrust and unfair competition, defamation, invasion of privacy, trademark, and copyright. And the firm’s appellate lawyers repeatedly establish important precedents in state and federal courts.
See published decision (PDF)