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.