Florida East Coast R. Co. v. Groves

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtHOCKER, J.
Citation46 So. 294,55 Fla. 436
Decision Date07 April 1908
PartiesFLORIDA EAST COAST R. CO. v. GROVES.

46 So. 294

55 Fla. 436

FLORIDA EAST COAST R. CO.
v.
GROVES.

Florida Supreme Court

April 7, 1908


Error to Circuit Court, Dade County; Minor S. Jones, Judge.

Action by W. C. Groves against the Florida East Coast Railroad Company. Judgment for plaintiff, and defendant brings error. Reversed.

Syllabus by the Court

SYLLABUS

Two elements must be proven by a plaintiff in a suit for damages for a malicious prosecution, viz.: (1) Malice in the prosecutor, and (2) a want of probable cause; and, where the proof fails to establish both of these elements, such a suit must fail.

In a suit for damages for a malicious prosecution, where there is no dispute about the material facts, the question of probable cause is one of law.

In a suit for damages for a malicious prosecution, where the evidence fails to show a want of porbable cause in the prosecutor, he is entitled to an affirmative charge in his behalf.

Where the agent of a corporation, believing that a crime had been committed, states all the material facts bearing on the transaction so far as he was informed of them to the prosecuting officer of a county, and furnishes him the names of witnesses who can give more detailed information, and leaves it to the officer to act on his own judgment and responsibility as to whether there shall be a criminal prosecution, and does no more, the fact that the prosecuting officer may make a mistake in instituting a criminal prosecution does not affect the bona fides of the agent, and the corporation cannot be held liable for a malicious prosecution.

COUNSEL [55 Fla. 437] Geo. M. Robbins, for plaintiff in error.

Geo. A. Worley, for defendant in error.

OPINION

HOCKER, J.

W. C. Groves, called herein the plaintiff, sued the Florida East Coast Railroad Company, herein called the defendant, in the circuit court of Dade county for damages for an alleged malicious prosecution, and recovered a judgment for $3,500. The writ of error is from this judgment.

The declaration in substance alleges that the defendant in the month of December, 1906, did unlawfully and maliciously, and without any reason or probable cause, [55 Fla. 438] make complaint in said county (Dade) before the prosecuting officer of the county court in and for said county; that the plaintiff did on or about the --- day of December, 1906, entice away from the service of the railroad company certain employés, and did procure an information to be filed in the office of the clerk of the county court charging the plaintiff with an offense against the laws of Florida, to wit, enticing away labor, procured a warrant to be issued and placed in the hands of the sheriff, and caused the plaintiff to be arrested and taken into custody, forcing the plaintiff to give bond for his appearance at the January term of said court for 1907; that plaintiff appeared at said term of court demanding trial, and defendant failed and refused to appear and prosecute the plaintiff; and that the said charges against the plaintiff were dismissed by the prosecuting officer, and the cause finally disposed of in favor of the plaintiff whereby his innocence was established, and no further prosecution has been instituted against the plaintiff, and he has been discharged from further appearance in the case. The declaration sets up various claims of special damage. The defendant filed a plea of not guilty, and a plea denying that it made a complaint before the prosecuting officer of Dade county and procured an information to be filed charging the plaintiff with an offense against the laws of Florida, to wit, enticing away labor, and also a plea of another action pending in which the same items of special damage are claimed. Issue was joined, and a trial had by a jury resulting in the above-mentioned judgment.

The only assignment of error we deem it necessary to consider is the first, viz.: The court erred in denying defendant's motion to instruct the jury to find for the defendant. A proper consideration of this assignment requires us to review the evidence bearing upon the question whether the defendant had probable cause for [55 Fla. 439] the prosecution of Mr. Groves for enticing laborers and servants in the employment of the former to violate their contract of service.

The statute defining the offense of enticing servants is section 3232 of the General Statutes of 1906, and is as follows:

'3232 Enticing Servants. Whoever shall entice or persuade by any means whatsoever any tenant, servant or laborer, under contract with another, whether written or verbal, to violate such contract, or shall employ any servant or laborer, knowing him or her to be under contract as aforesaid, shall be punished by imprisonment not exceeding sixty days, or by fine not exceeding one hundred dollars.'

Two elements are necessary to sustain a [46 So. 295] suit for malicious prosecution: (1) Malice in the prosecutor; and (2) a want of probable cause. Lewton v. Hower, 35 Fla. 58, 16 So. 616. Where there is no dispute as to the facts, the question of probable cause is one of law. Lewton v. Hower, supra.

Mr. Groves, the plaintiff, testified at the trial that he was 32 years old; his occupation is railroad work, as construction foreman. In November and December, 1906, he was living at Umbrella Key in Florida, employed by the East Coast Railroad Company up to the 12th of December, 1906, had charge of Camp No. 2 or No. 8 on Umbrella Key, was head foreman of the camp, had about 150 men under him on the average. About this time he sent in his resignation to Mr. Meredith, the construction engineer, and it was accepted. Pretty near all the negroes under him resigned or quit work. He then testifies at considerable length about the difficulties he has with the defendant in getting the negroes to Miami. He finally got to Miami with the negroes, where he was arrested under a warrant for enticing laborers from the East Coast Railroad. [55 Fla. 440] He gave bond, and the next day saw Mr. Meredith and had a conversation in which there was some crimination and recrimination, and in which Meredith told him he was going to swear out more...

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22 practice notes
  • Foster v. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co., No. 26782.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 2, 1929
    ...Ryan v. Ins. Co. (Vt.), 119 Atl. 423; Western Oil Ref. Co. v. Glendenning (Ind. App.), 156 N.E. 182; Florida East Coast Ry. Co. v. Groves, 55 Fla. 436; Christy v. Rice, 152 Mich. 553; Moriarty v. Almich (Minn.), 169 N.W. 798; Atkinson v. Burmingham (R.I.), 116 Atl. 205. (2) The court commit......
  • Douglas v. Kenney
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • February 3, 1925
    ...supra; Price v. Morris, 122 Ark. 382, 183 S.W. 180; Christy v. Rice, 152 Mich. 563, 116 N.W. 200; Florida East Coast Ry. Co. v. Groves, 55 Fla. 436, 46 So. 294; Harris v. Woodford, 98 Mich. 147, 57 N.W. 96; Redman v. Hudson, 124 Ark. 26, 186 S.W. 312; Missouri K. & T. Ry. Co. v. Groseclose,......
  • Gravette v. Turner
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 29, 1919
    ...Brick Co., 56 Fla. 116, 47 So. 942, 16 Ann. Cas. 1054; Bruner v. Hart, 59 Fla. 171, 51 So. 593; Florida East Coast R. Co. v. Groves, 55 Fla. 436, 46 So. 294; Mugge v Jackson, 53 Fla. 323, 43 So. 91. Judgment reversed. BROWNE, C.J., and TAYLOR, ELLIS, and WEST, JJ., concur. ...
  • Stevens v. Tampa Electric Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • April 12, 1921
    ...was shown. Pensacola, St. Andrews & Gulf S. S. Co. v. Austin, 63 Fla. 241, 58 So. 611. See, also, Florida East Coast R. Co. v. Groves, 55 Fla. 436, 46 So. 294. The principles herein announced do not conflict with those stated in Gravette v. Turner, 77 Fla. 311, 81 South 476. Affirmed. BROWN......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Foster v. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co., No. 26782.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 2, 1929
    ...Ryan v. Ins. Co. (Vt.), 119 Atl. 423; Western Oil Ref. Co. v. Glendenning (Ind. App.), 156 N.E. 182; Florida East Coast Ry. Co. v. Groves, 55 Fla. 436; Christy v. Rice, 152 Mich. 553; Moriarty v. Almich (Minn.), 169 N.W. 798; Atkinson v. Burmingham (R.I.), 116 Atl. 205. (2) The court commit......
  • Douglas v. Kenney
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • February 3, 1925
    ...supra; Price v. Morris, 122 Ark. 382, 183 S.W. 180; Christy v. Rice, 152 Mich. 563, 116 N.W. 200; Florida East Coast Ry. Co. v. Groves, 55 Fla. 436, 46 So. 294; Harris v. Woodford, 98 Mich. 147, 57 N.W. 96; Redman v. Hudson, 124 Ark. 26, 186 S.W. 312; Missouri K. & T. Ry. Co. v. Groseclose,......
  • Gravette v. Turner
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 29, 1919
    ...Brick Co., 56 Fla. 116, 47 So. 942, 16 Ann. Cas. 1054; Bruner v. Hart, 59 Fla. 171, 51 So. 593; Florida East Coast R. Co. v. Groves, 55 Fla. 436, 46 So. 294; Mugge v Jackson, 53 Fla. 323, 43 So. 91. Judgment reversed. BROWNE, C.J., and TAYLOR, ELLIS, and WEST, JJ., concur. ...
  • Stevens v. Tampa Electric Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • April 12, 1921
    ...was shown. Pensacola, St. Andrews & Gulf S. S. Co. v. Austin, 63 Fla. 241, 58 So. 611. See, also, Florida East Coast R. Co. v. Groves, 55 Fla. 436, 46 So. 294. The principles herein announced do not conflict with those stated in Gravette v. Turner, 77 Fla. 311, 81 South 476. Affirmed. BROWN......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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