Posted on Thursday, June 1st, 2023 at 12:08 am
Being unfairly confined or restrained against your will is a frightening experience no one should go through. It violates your freedom and dignity and most importantly, is illegal. This is known as false imprisonment, a serious offense under personal injury law. It’s not just a crime – it’s also a tort, a wrong you can address through a lawsuit.
Here at Wallace Miller, we understand the gravity of these situations and want you to know that you’re not alone. Furthermore, our false imprisonment lawyers know legal terms can be hard to understand without practical examples. So, we created this guide of false imprisonment tort examples to illustrate what this grievous wrong looks like in real life. Keep reading to learn more about false imprisonment cases.
Real-world examples of false imprisonment claims
An all-too-common example of false imprisonment is patients in healthcare facilities or nursing homes who are confined against their will. For instance, nine patients at a psychiatric facility in Arkansas have sued the facility for alleged false imprisonment. The patients argue the facility forcibly kept them there without cause, used forced sedation, and used unnecessarily harsh methods to restrain them.
Additionally, many false imprisonment claims involve wrongful actions by the police. A North Carolina woman is suing the Fayetteville police department after they allegedly detained her without cause. The woman argues police falsely detained her while searching for a “potentially violent suspect,” even though nothing directly connected the woman to the suspect in question. She says she was inspecting a vacant lot for her employer as part of her job as a property manager, but the police took her ID and handcuffed her without cause. She was later released without any charges against her.
Common types of false imprisonment situations
Examples of false imprisonment are more common than you might think, and it’s crucial to be aware of them to safeguard your rights. Some common instances of false imprisonment include:
- Unlawful Detention by Security or Law Enforcement: This can happen when a security guard or a police officer detains someone without a proper legal basis.
- Being Held Against Your Will in a Healthcare Facility: Sometimes, a healthcare facility or nursing home will confine patients without their consent. For instance, this could involve a patient being prevented from leaving when they want to or being physically restrained without proper justification.
- Detainment in a Store: Sometimes, a store might falsely accuse a customer of shoplifting and hold them against their will. While store owners have some rights to detain suspected shoplifters, these rights are not absolute and are easy to overstep.
- Domestic Situations: Many false imprisonment cases involve someone detaining a family member or romantic partner against their will. This often occurs alongside other forms of domestic abuse.
- Unlawful Detention by an Employer: Sometimes, an employer might prevent an employee from leaving the workplace against their will.
High-profile false imprisonment cases and their outcomes
As you’d expect, false imprisonment cases often involve law enforcement detaining someone without cause. In one notable example, Chicago police arrested Ronald Jones in 1985 for the alleged murder of Debra Smith. Despite Jones’ repeated statements that he only confessed after a vicious beating by police and incorrect testimony from a forensic analyst, Jones was convicted and sentenced to death. Eventually, DNA testing exonerated him, and he later sued the City of Chicago for false imprisonment and violating his civil rights. He received $2.2 million from a settlement, as well as $125,000 from the state of Illinois as compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.
Not all false imprisonment cases involve law enforcement, though. In 1996, two Walmart employees in Bangor, Maine, stopped Debra McCann and her two children from leaving the store because they mistakenly believed someone had previously caught one of them stealing. After more than an hour, a security officer arrived and revealed that McCann’s children were not the ones previously caught shoplifting. McCann sued Walmart and won $20,000 in compensation after successfully arguing that the store employees’ actions constituted false imprisonment.
Factors that influence the outcome of a false imprisonment claim
Regarding false imprisonment claims, several key factors can influence the outcome of a lawsuit. Let’s look at a few of these crucial elements:
- Evidence of Imprisonment: The victim must demonstrate the perpetrator confined them against their will.
- Lack of Consent: To win a false imprisonment claim, the victim must prove they did not consent to the confinement.
- Duration of Imprisonment: The length of time the victim is confined can significantly affect the case’s outcome. Generally, longer periods of confinement lead to more compensation.
- Intent of the Defendant: In some cases, the defendant’s intent can influence the case. If the defendant knowingly and intentionally confined the victim against their will, this could substantially impact the lawsuit’s outcome.
- Awareness of Confinement or Harm: The victim must be aware of the confinement or have suffered harm somehow. If the victim was unconscious or otherwise unaware, this could affect their ability to claim false imprisonment.
- Lawful Justification: If the defendant can prove that they had a lawful justification for confining the individual, such as an arrest warrant or reasonable suspicion of a crime, the claim may not succeed.
Just because your case doesn’t fit these examples doesn’t mean you can’t recover compensation for false imprisonment. Our team can evaluate your claim and help you find justice. Call (312) 261-6193 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.