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Court of Appeals Rejects False Imprisonment Claim Based on Allegations of Recklessness

On January 28, 2014, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals decided Doe v. Safeway, Inc., No. 12-CV-1848, slip op. (D.C. Jan. 28, 2014), in which it considered whether the trial court improperly granted summary judgment to the defendant on a tort claim for false imprisonment. Id. at 1-2. The plaintiffs alleged that they were detained by the police as a result of a false report of criminal activity made by the defendant’s employees. Id. at 1-2, 7. In the District of Columbia, a person can be held liable for false imprisonment for knowingly making a false report to the police. Id. at 3. On appeal, however, the plaintiffs did not argue that the defendant’s employees acted knowingly. Instead, the plaintiffs argued that “summary judgment [was] improper because the trial court ignored the possibility that [the defendant’s] employees could be found liable for false imprisonment on a theory of recklessness.” Id. at 5. In rejecting the plaintiffs’ argument, the Court of Appeals denied that it has ever held that a person may be held liable for false imprisonment for recklessly making a false report to the police. Id. at 5-6. Furthermore, it stated that, “[e]ven if we were to assume that reckless reporting of criminal activity gives rise to liability for false imprisonment, [the plaintiffs] . . . provided no evidence in the record that suggests [the defendant’s] employees acted recklessly.” Id. at 6. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to the defendant. Id. at 7. To view the Court of Appeals’ opinion, click here.