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School employees who report assault cannot be sued for malicious prosecution or defamation

Jamie Bradley sued the Detroit Public School and several employees after an altercation that occurred at the end of a meeting involving his son.   The son's teacher, Shawn Grant, claimed that Bradley struck her pregnant abdomen as he was angrily leaving the meeting.  The assault was reported to the police and Bradley was prosecuted.  When Bradley secured a "not guilty" verdict, he sued the school and its employees for malicious prosecution, alleging defamation and other theories of liability. 

The Court of Appeals held that Bradley's suit was properly dismissed.  It noted the strong public policy in favor of reporting criminal behavior.  In accordance with this policy, a citizen is immune for reporting a suspected criminal act to police or the prosecutor, provided the citizen makes full and fair disclosure to the authorities and a warrant is recommended by the prosecutor.  Since Bradley could not identify any fact that would support a claim of unfair or false reporting, the employees were immune from liability for malicious prosecution. 

Bradley also claimed that the school system was not immune from liabilty for an intentional illegal act, however, the Court noted that if the school is engaged in a governmental function, it is immune from liability, regardless of how the particular alleged action is characterized. With regard to Bradley's claim that the lower court was wrong to grant immunity to the teacher and principal for reporting the assault, the Court held that the teacher's account of the incident was supported by at least one student.  There was no evidence to suggest that either the teacher or the principal was not acting in good faith in responding to the incident.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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