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Baize v. Vincent

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

May 27, 2015

MICHAEL R. BAIZE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH VINCENT and DANIELLE VINCENT, Husband and Wife, BETH B. MILLER, ESQUIRE and MORRIS JAMES, LLP, Defendants.

Submitted: February 5, 2015

Upon Defendants Beth B. Miller and Morris James, LLP's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint.

Mark M. Billion, Esquire and Peter K. Schaeffer, Jr., Esquire, of Avenue Law, Dover, Delaware; attorneys for the Plaintiff.

Paul M. Lukoff, Esquire, of Wilks, Lukoff & Bracegirdle, LLC, Wilmington, Delaware; attorneys for Defendants Beth Miller and Morris James, LLP.

Daniel C. Herr, Esquire of The Norman Law Firm, Wilmington, Delaware; attorney for the Defendants Vincent (who are not directly involved in this action)

ORDER

WILLIAM L. WITHAM, JR. RESIDENT JUDGE.

HISTORY OF CASE PRIOR TO FILINGS IN THIS COURT

In 1999, Plaintiff Michael R. Baize (hereinafter "Plaintiff") and his wife were appointed guardians of Defendant Joseph Vincent (hereinafter "Joseph ") and Joseph's sister.[1] In 2007, Joseph joined his sister in a civil suit filed in the Court of Chancery against Baize and his wife, alleging financial mismanagement of guardianship property held in trust by the Plaintiff for the benefit of Joseph and his sister.

On September 30, 2011, the Court of Chancery dismissed the suit, and no damages were awarded.[2] Less than one month later, on October 21, 2011, Joseph and his wife, Danielle Vincent (hereinafter "Danielle, " collectively "the Vincents") went to the Dover Police Department and accused Plaintiff of forging Joseph's name on six checks.

Based on the Vincents' report, the Justice of the Peace issued an arrest warrant for Plaintiff, and the Dover Police Department arrested Plaintiff and charged him with six counts of Forgery in the Second Degree. On July 6, 2012 the State nolle prosequi'd all six counts against Plaintiff, and filed for expungement of the charges.

Plaintiff filed a complaint with this Court on April 22, 2013, pleading claims of defamation and malicious prosecution against the Vincents. Plaintiff alleges that following the dismissal of the Court of Chancery action in 2011, the Vincents colluded to impute criminal acts toward Plaintiff that they knew to be false. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that of the six checks the Vincents claimed the Plaintiff forged, two were acknowledged by Joseph in his deposition in the Court of Chancery action as being made for Joseph's benefit and with Joseph's knowledge. Plaintiff alleges that the other four checks were all ultimately deposited into Joseph's account, eliminating any claim for injury, deceit, or fraud. Plaintiff further relies on the alleged statements of the Attorney General in the State's motion to expunge to show that Joseph knew the criminal charges lacked merit when the Vincents reported Plaintiff to the Dover Police Department.

The Vincents filed a Motion to Dismiss both of Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 12(b)(6) on May 28, 2013. As to the defamation claim, the Vincents contend that the reporting of a crime constitutes a statement made in the course of judicial proceedings, and thus are entitled to the absolute privilege to defamation. As to the malicious prosecution claim, the Vincents argued that the Plaintiff failed to plead the element of malice in his complaint. The Vincents further contend that Plaintiff's complaint fails to show that there was no probable cause at the time of Plaintiff's arrest. Now the Plaintiff sues the Vincents' former attorney, Beth Miller, Esquire, (hereinafter "Defendant-Miller") and her employer, Morris James, LLP ("Defendant-Employer" or collectively "Defendants") on the same claims of defamation and malicious prosecution. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on November 19, 2014.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff amended his complaint to include the Defendants. The Plaintiff believes that had it not been for Ms. Miller, that the other Defendants, Joseph and Danielle Vincent, would not have contacted the Dover Police Department.

The Plaintiff argues that it is because of the Defendants that the Vincents went to the police to file a report regarding the allegedly criminal behavior of the Plaintiff in the first place. Plaintiff argues that the Vincents have stated that their "tortious actions resulting in the felony arrests of ...


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