This is the second half on our post looking at Batten v. City of New York and its impact on how courts examine malicious prosecution claims.
In ruling that the defendants had probable cause, a complete defense to malicious prosecution, the Appellate Division focused extensively on the steps taken by the police during the investigation. After the police canvassed for witnesses, the sole eyewitness they found identified Batten as being the perpetrator. After that identification, the police checked determine if Batten was in prison at the time of the crime, they spoke with Batten’s godfather about Batten’s alibi, checked the criminal backgrounds of the store’s employees, and conducted multiple interviews.
To rebut this, Batten presented evidence of the confidential informant’s information and that the police gave the employee mentioned to federal immigration authorities rather than investigating the CI’s information. He also noted that the description by the eyewitness did not perfectly match his own several days after the crime. Even so, the Court noted that:
“while the failure to make further inquiry when a reasonable person would have done so may be evidence of lack of probable cause, the mere failure to follow some leads does not amount to an egregious deviation from accepted practices or fraud. Police investigators are not obligated to pursue every lead that may yield evidence beneficial to the accused… [and] have not necessarily improperly concealed evidence every time a plaintiff is able to show that the police could have conducted further investigation”
On the whole, this decision will provide clarification for future malicious prosecution cases about the line between simple negligence in a police investigation and what conduct would be considered “egregious.” This will be particularly helpful for municipalities and attorneys in planning litigation strategies or mapping out potential settlements in such cases. It also indicates we may see more of these kinds of detailed factual analyses in the future.
The case was Batten v. City of New York, 133 A.D.3d 803 (2nd Dept. 2015).