False Imprisonment Cases: Median Verdicts and Settlements

The latest edition of Metro Verdicts Monthly provides numbers on false arrest/imprisonment cases.

The median legal false arrest/imprisonment verdict or settlement in Washington D.C. was $25,000.00. Virginia and Maryland have slightly higher median settlements/verdicts of $26,000.00 and $29,000.00, respectively.

I’m surprised the median verdict/settlement is this high because I would think the median case would be one with relatively insignificant injuries except for the inconvenience. There are awful exceptions to that rule, but those awful exceptions would be reflected in the averages—as opposed to the medians.

While I love these graphs, I wish Metro Verdicts Monthly would provide a little more information. I’m not sure if this number only involves police officer false imprisonment cases or also includes non-police cases where, for example, a department store detains someone wrongfully accused of shoplifting. If I were a juror, I would give a larger award against an overzealous Wal-Mart or Target employee than I would a police officer trying to do his/her job in good faith, albeit negligently.

  • 2020, New York: $585,000 Verdict. A 41-year-old writer dined at a Brooklyn restaurant. He tried to pay for his meal with a credit card but was told that the restaurant only accepted cash. The man departed for an ATM, but the security guard pursued him and directed him back to the restaurant. A physical altercation resulted once they returned inside. The man claimed that the security guard and two police officers, who were also eating at the restaurant, attacked him. He sustained back, neck, and shoulder injuries. The man also claimed post-traumatic stress disorder sustained from the incident. He was arrested and jailed, but the criminal charges were dismissed. The man sued the restaurant’s operators, the security guard, the security agency, and the premise’s owners. He alleged that the security guard’s actions were unnecessary and led to false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. His counsel discontinued the claims against the security guard and the security agency. The jury ruled in favor of the man and determined his damages totaled $585,000.
  • 2020, Ohio: $28,000 Settlement. A man was incarcerated for several years because of a felony charge. He was imprisoned for 143 days beyond his expected release date.  The man was initially charged with a felony and received a 25-year prison sentence. Ten years into his sentence, he was released on supervised parole. Before the end of parole, he was charged for another felony and received a two-year sentence. The man was also ordered to serve the remainder of his 25-year sentence. This case concerned whether these sentences should run concurrently or consecutively. A Bureau of Sentence Computation employee notified a judge that his sentences were to be run concurrently. However, the Bureau of Sentence Computation made the sentences consecutive, despite the court not making this adjustment. The man learned that he was to serve concurrent sentences, rather than consecutive, during a parole hearing. He tried to get this issue fixed, with no success. He then filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus, which was granted by the Ohio Supreme Court. This allowed him to be released. He then sued the State of Ohio for false imprisonment. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction eventually replaced the state as the defendant. The man was originally a truck driver before his incarceration and claimed that he would have been able to get back to work sooner if he was released earlier. This case settled before trial for $28,000.

false imprisonment verdicts

  • 2020, Nevada: $550,000 Verdict. A 25-year-old man got off work, stopped by a grocery store, and went on his way home. Upon leaving the grocery store, the Las Vegas police were dealing with a stand-off in the area. He approached the scene and drove past the SWAT vehicle. A police officer came out of the vehicle and told him the man to turn around. The officer then panicked and tried to turn on his gun’s light. Instead, he fired into the man’s vehicle, and the bullet struck his feet. The man suffered a broken big toe. This limited movement for the once athletic man. He sued the police department for excessive force, negligence, unreasonable seizure, and false imprisonment. The police department concluded it was an accident but denied a violation of civil rights. They reassigned the officer from SWAT to patrol. After a four-day trial, the jury ruled in favor of the man and awarded him $550,000 in damages.
  • 2019, Ohio: $50,000,000 Verdict. A 45-year-old landscaper was pulled over by police officers, who believed that his vehicle belonged to a drug dealer suspect. They searched the car and found no drugs. An officer beat him up and locked him in a police station closet for four days with no access to a restroom or food. He called his girlfriend on the second day in the closet. She tried to visit him, but was turned away and was told there was an active investigation. The man suffered bruising, loss of consciousness, emotional distress, numbness, and discomfort. He sued the police department for excessive force, battery, false arrest, and false imprisonment. There were two trials involving this case. The jury in the first trial awarded $22,000,000. This verdict was appealed, and another trial was held. The second trial’s jury verdict amounted to $50,000,000.
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