Court rules against malicious prosecution claim by docs

Two doctors cannot pursue a malicious prosecution claim against a patient who sued them for malpractice and then dropped the lawsuit, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled recently.

The physicians were responding to a lawsuit by patient Tracy Allain, who was told by a physician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville in 2005 that a previous medical procedure had left a guide wire in a vein leading to her heart. In response to that information, Allain sued Williamson Medical Center in Franklin, TN, Elliot Himmelfarb, MD, and Douglas York, MD.

A few weeks later, Vanderbilt took responsibility for the wire, and Allain dropped her lawsuit. The physicians sued her, alleging malicious prosecution and abuse of process, but a unanimous decision by the state Supreme Court stopped the lawsuit. The opinion said a high standard for malicious prosecution is needed because such suits can deter people from using the courts to settle disputes.

The opinion is available online at