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Philadelphia County, PA

The plaintiff was a truck driver for the defendant, a non-profit organization which provides food for the hungry in the Philadelphia area. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant falsely accused him of stealing gasoline, maliciously prosecuted him, and caused him to be unfairly incarcerated for more than three months. The organization’s president, vice president, and trucking supervisor, were also named as individual defendants in the case. The plaintiff claimed that he was prosecuted for an improper motive, despite evidence that he was not responsible for the theft. The plaintiff sought punitive as well as compensatory damages. The defense argued that there was probable cause to suspect the plaintiff of stealing donated gasoline and that the defendant simply reported the crime to the police. A law firm which previously represented the defendant was dismissed form the case prior to trial.The underlying charges against the plaintiff revolved around fuel cards which were donated to the defendant non-profit organization by Sunoco to be used for the defendant’s food delivery trucks.

In ________, the plaintiff was accused of using the donated fuel cards to purchase some $________ in gasoline for his own personal use. He was terminated by the defendant in August of ________. The plaintiff alleged that information provided by the defendants led to his arrest in December of ________ for felony theft, and spent three and a half months in jail before the charges against him were dismissed. The plaintiff argued that the defendant’s employee, who had accused the plaintiff of fuel theft (a non-party to the litigation), had himself been twice convicted of theft from a prior employer, and was the most likely suspect in the fuel theft, for which he blamed the plaintiff. The plaintiff also showed that this employee, the defendant’s director of logistics, was discovered using one of the defendant’s credit cards for personal use, and was terminated some three months after the plaintiff’s arrest.

The plaintiff alleged that, despite learning that the plaintiff’s chief accuser was, himself, a thief, the defendant failed to adequately investigate the charges against the plaintiff or to inform the district attorney of the new developments.

The defendants countered that the facts supported probable cause that the plaintiff had misused the fuel card. The card at issue was assigned to the delivery truck driven by the plaintiff, the card was used for unleaded gasoline (not diesel fuel used by the trucks) and was used at gas stations located near the plaintiff’s home during hours when the plaintiff was not working, according to evidence offered.

The defense also maintained that it simply reported the facts to the police who then arrested and prosecuted the plaintiff. Once the original charges against the plaintiff were dismissed, the District Attorney decided to refile the charges in ________ without any involvement on the part of the defendants, according to the defense. Those charges were also ultimately dismissed.After a five-day trial, the jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $________. The award included $________ in compensatory damages, and $________ in punitive damages. The case is currently on appeal.

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