SAN JOSE — The California Sixth District Court of Appeal recently reversed a trial court's decision in a malicious prosecution lawsuit.
The June 15 ruling revived a dismissed suit that started in 2010 when Timothy Walton, who claims to be a licensed California attorney, brought suit against the Rossdale Group LLC. after the company allegedly refused to pay the attorney over allegations of “prohibited forms of email advertising.” At the time, Walton allegedly maintained "a litigation factory by placing dozens of email addresses on the internet, collecting spam messages sent to those addresses and then demanding 'compensation' for supposed violations of California law," according to the opinion.
Walton allegedly demanded compensation for purported violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Civil Code 1750. When the company refused to pay, Walton filed suit against, but it was dismissed in 2012.
Rossdale then filed a malicious prosecution suit the same afternoon, arguing that “Walton‘s prior lawsuit was pursued on legal theories Walton knew to be erroneous and discovery tactics meant to prolong a meritless lawsuit,” according to the opinion.
Walton denied the charges, arguing that the malicious prosecution suit against him should be dropped because Rossdale was a fabricated company name registered in Florida to Miami Legal.
“With the dissolution of Miami Legal, Walton argued, 'the legal entity that is the plaintiff in this action disappeared,'” according to the opinion.
In 2016, Miami Legal argued that all of its assets and liabilities had been transferred to Rossdale, CLE Inc (Rossdale Delaware), and Susan Lunden, who claimed to be CEO of Rossdale, stepped in to prove it.
Though the company did not deny Miami Legal was dissolved, it argued that Rossdale Delaware was the "successor in interest to the causes of action asserted in their [sic] lawsuit," according to the appeals court's decision.
“In his reply, Walton asserted that no documentary evidence was provided by Lunden to support her claim that the assets and liabilities of Miami Legal had in fact been assigned to Rossdale Delaware," the appeals court said in its opinion. "He also implied that any such assignment would have been void because it would have been done by the time Miami Legal was dissolved."
But the appeals court thought there was evidence of this and reversed the dismissal of malicious prosecution against Walton.
“This case does not involve an individual seeking to sue under a fictitious name to protect his identity, does not invoke serious privacy concerns and did not raise any supposed violation of any fictitious name statue...” according to the opinion. “The judgment is reversed. The trial court is instructed to enter an order denying Walton‘s motion to dismiss."