We first address the question presented by defendant’s cross-appeal, i.e., whether the court erred in denying defendant’s motions for a directed verdict and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict as to plaintiffs claim for compensatory damages. The question raised by defendant’s motions is whether the evidence, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, was sufficient to submit the issue to the jury. See Summey v. Cauthen, 283 N.C. 640, 197 S.E. 2d 549 (1973) and Kelly v. Harvester Co., 278 N.C. 153, 179 S.E. 2d 396 (1971).
In order to establish her cause of action for malicious prosecution, plaintiff was required to show (1) that defendant instituted the criminal proceedings against her; (2) that the prosecution was without probable cause; (3) that it was with malice; and (4) that it was terminated in her favor. Carson v. Doggett, 231 N.C. 629, 58 S.E. 2d 609 (1950); see also Pitts v. Pizza, Inc., 296 N.C. 81, 249 S.E. 2d 375 (1978). Malice may be inferred from want of probable cause, Id. The resolution of the case before us hinges on the issue of probable cause.
In Smith v. Deaver, 49 N.C. (4 Jones) 513 (1857), our supreme court defined probable cause as:
[T]he existence of circumstances and facts sufficiently strong to excite, in a reasonable mind, suspicion that the person charged with having been guilty, was guilty. It is a case of apparent guilt as contradistinguished from real guilt. It is not essential, that there should be positive evidence at the time the action is commenced, but the guilt should be so apparent at the time, as would be sufficient ground to induce a rational and prudent man, who duly regards the rights of others, as well as his own, to institute a prosecution; not that he knows the facts necessary to ensure a conviction, but that there are known to him sufficient grounds to suspect that the person he charges was guilty of the offence.
*319The foregoing definition was cited and approved in Carson v. Doggett, supra. In Pitts v. Pizza, Inc., supra, the court stated that probable cause has been properly defined as the existence of such facts and circumstances as would induce a reasonable man to commence a prosecution.
 The existence of probable cause is a mixed question of law and fact. Pitts v. Pizza, Inc., supra. If the facts are admitted or not in dispute, it is a question of law for the court. Id. Conversely, when the facts are in dispute, the question of probable cause is for the jury. Id. In the case now before us, the facts were disputed, plaintiffs evidence tending to show that she took no earrings from defendant’s stock, but only through forgetfulness, wore one pair out of the store, while defendant’s evidence tended to show that Officer Lynch observed plaintiff putting something in her purse while she was working and that plaintiff did wear a pair of defendant’s earrings out of the store. Thus, the question was for the jury, and we are persuaded that from the evidence, considered in the light most favorable to plaintiff, that after defendant’s agents had concluded their investigation, they could not have harbored a reasonable suspicion that plaintiff had stolen defendant’s earrings. Defendant’s investigation disclosed no missing earrings nor disclosed that plaintiff had committed any trespass against defendant, an element of larceny. See State v. Brown, 56 N.C. App. 228, 287 S.E. 2d 421 (1982); see also State v. Babb, 34 N.C. App. 336, 238 S.E. 2d 308 (1977). Defendant’s motions for a directed verdict and for judgment N.O.V. were properly denied.
[2, 3] Next we address plaintiffs contention that the court erred in refusing to submit an issue of punitive damages to the jury. In order for plaintiff to recover punitive damages, she must show that she was wrongfully prosecuted from actual malice in the sense of ill-will, spite, or desire for revenge, or under circumstances of insult, rudeness or oppression, or in a manner evidencing a reckless and wanton disregard of her rights. See Murray v. Insurance Co., 51 N.C. App. 10, 275 S.E. 2d 195 (1981) and cases cited and discussed therein.1 Compare Shugar v. Guill, *320304 N.C. 332, 283 S.E. 2d 507 (1981). Plaintiff need only show one of these circumstances in order to recover. She contends that there is evidence from which the jury could have found that she was prosecuted under circumstances of insult, rudeness or oppression and evidence from which a jury could have found that she was prosecuted in a manner which evidenced a reckless and wanton disregard for her rights.
In jury trials the usual rules governing motions for a directed verdict apply when there is such a motion as to a claim for punitive damages on the grounds of insufficiency of evidence, and the trial judge must determine as a matter of law whether the evidence when considered in the light most favorable to the plaintiff is sufficient to carry the issue of punitive damages to the jury.
Shugar v. Guill, supra. The evidence in this case so viewed clearly reveals support for plaintiffs claim that she was prosecuted under circumstances which amount to insult, rudeness or oppression. While a polite, but firm, investigation may have served the better interest of both plaintiff and defendant, the conduct of defendant’s employees in this case was such that a jury could find that plaintiff was treated rudely and oppressively.
There was also evidence from which the jury could find that plaintiff was prosecuted in a manner evincing a reckless and wanton disregard of her rights. The employee who had plaintiff arrested testified that he did not try to prove her innocence because “I try to prove someone’s guilt routinely.” While he was vigorously trying to prove plaintiffs guilt he failed to take an inventory of the jewelry department to see if there were any items missing, did not check plaintiffs sales book to determine if she had sold any jewelry, did not check with anyone regarding plaintiffs personnel record or her character. These are all admissions which could be found to evidence a reckless and wanton disregard of plaintiffs right to be free from malicious prosecution. We hold that for the reasons stated above the court erred in refusing to submit an issue of punitive damages to the jury. We therefore reverse the court’s judgment as to this question.
In a case such as this, where the question of granting a directed verdict is a close one, we feel it appropriate to emphasize the procedural point that,
*321[T]he better practice is for the trial judge to reserve his decision on the motion and allow the case to be submitted to the jury. If the jury returns a verdict in favor of the moving party, no decision on the motion is necessary and an appeal may be avoided. If the jury finds for the nonmoving party, the judge may reconsider the motion and enter a judgment notwithstanding the verdict under G.S. 1A-1, Rule 50(b), provided he is convinced the evidence was insufficient. On appeal, if the motion proves to have been improperly granted, the appellate court then has the option of ordering entry of the judgment on the verdict, thereby eliminating the expense and delay involved in a retrial. . . .
 Finally, plaintiff argues the court erred in refusing to award her the costs of depositions and expert witness fees. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 6-18 (1981) provides that costs are to be allowed in malicious prosecution actions. The question we must decide is whether deposition fees and expert witness fees are costs within the purview of the statute. In Dixon, Odom & Co. v. Sledge, 59 N.C. App. 280, 296 S.E. 2d 512 (1982) this court said a trial court in its discretion may tax deposition costs as part of the “costs” of an action. In this action the court in its discretion refused to award deposition expense. We are unable to find any abuse of discretion and therefore affirm the court’s order. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-314(d) (1981) provides that the court in its discretion may award expert witness fees. These fees may be awarded only if the witness’ testimony was material and competent. City of Charlotte v. McNeely, 281 N.C. 684, 190 S.E. 2d 179 (1972). The court in this case exercised its discretion in failing to award such fees. We find no abuse of discretion and therefore uphold the court’s ruling.
The judgment of the court is affirmed in part and reversed in part and the matter is remanded for a new trial as to the issue of punitive damages.
As to plaintiff s appeal, affirmed in part and reversed in part and remanded for a new trial as to the issue of punitive damages.
*322As to defendant’s cross-appeal, affirmed.
Judge BECTON concurs.
Judge JOHNSON concurs in part and dissents in part.