Session March 27, 2018
from the Circuit Court for Bedford County No. 12490 Franklin
L. Russell, Judge
a malicious prosecution case. The trial court found that the
Appellant committed the torts of malicious prosecution and
abuse of process. Appellant argues that there was no material
evidence to support the trial court's inference of
malice. Appellant also questions the trial court's
failure to address the mandatory element of probable cause.
Discerning no error, we affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed and Remanded
Kennerly Burger, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Robert L. Bushnell.
Clay Parker, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Ray
Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Arnold B. Goldin, J.,
dismissal of a federal lawsuit, in which he was a defendant,
Appellee Ray Brown filed this malicious prosecution case
against Appellant Robert L. Bushnell in the Circuit Court for
Bedford County (the "trial court"). The underlying
lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Tennessee ("district court") by
Mr. Bushnell against Appellee, individually, and d/b/a
Ray's Paint and Body Shop, and multiple governmental
entities that are not parties to this appeal. Messrs.
Bushnell and Brown operate competing wrecker services. In his
district court complaint, Mr. Bushnell alleged that Appellee
violated RICO statutes, state tort law, the Sherman Antitrust
Act, and the Freedom of Information Act by failing to follow
certain ordinances governing the rotation of wrecker services
in Shelbyville and Bedford County. The district court granted
summary judgment in favor of Mr. Brown. Mr. Bushnell
dismissed all of the other defendants in the litigation, but
pursued an appeal of the order granting Brown's motion
for summary judgment in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals,
which upheld the district court's grant of summary
judgment. Mr. Bushnell then appealed the case to the United
States Supreme Court, which denied certiorari.
the dismissal of the federal lawsuit, on July 20, 2012, Mr.
Brown filed the instant case in the trial court. In his
complaint, Mr. Brown alleged that Mr. Bushnell had engaged in
malicious prosecution and abuse of process in filing the
federal lawsuit. On August 23, 2012, Mr. Bushnell answered
the complaint denying the material allegations. On May 2,
2017, following a trial, the trial court entered an order,
sustaining Mr. Brown's claim that Mr. Bushnell committed
the torts of malicious prosecution and abuse of process, and
awarding Mr. Brown $47, 600.00 in damages. The trial court
found in relevant part, that:
Bushnell committed the torts of malicious prosecution and
abuse of process against Plaintiff Brown. The new owner of a
new wrecker/auto repair company in a small town was dragged
into federal trial court, to the Sixth Circuit Court of
Appeals, and to the front door of the U.S. Supreme Court. The
whole process was launched after only very limited and flawed
investigation. The complaint contained and relied on multiple
falsehoods that were the heart of the claims against Brown.
Taken as a whole, the circumstantial evidence in the state
court leads to only one conclusion, which is that Bushnell
did not have probable cause to initiate and pursue his claim
against Brown and that doing so was motivated by malice and
specifically by a determination to put Brown out of the
wrecker service/auto repair business in Shelbyville,
Mr. Bushnell appeals.