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Judge to City: Lawsuit by Couple in Unusual Kidnap Case Compared by Police to Movie “Gone Girl” Can Proceed

Back in 2015, Denise Huskins reported that she had been kidnapped, while her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, claimed he had been drugged at the time. The police were skeptical of the couple’s claims and compared the case to the movie “Gone Girl,” which is premised on a woman who disappears, then later lies and claims she was kidnapped.

The police realized their comments were off-base when a man named Matthew Muller pleaded guilty to Huskins’ kidnapping and is currently serving a 40-year sentence.

Huskins and Quinn sued the city, the police department lieutenant, and a detective, claiming emotional distress and financial loss as a result of police actions in not taking their kidnapping claims seriously. Defendants sought dismissal, but a federal judge denied most of the motion.

In 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103754, while the claim of false imprisonment and arrest of Quinn against the lieutenant was dismissed, along with a Fourteenth Amendment defamation claim by Huskins against the lieutenant, the judge refused to dismiss the claim for state law defamation against all three defendants.

The judge held that the alleged statements in question, including those by the detective to Quinn’s brother that Quinn was having a schizophrenic breakdown and had murdered Huskins, as well as the detective’s comments to Huskins’ family that she made up the disappearance in order to relive a prior molestation, were not privileged under Cal. Civ. Code § 47(b), as the statements did not clearly show they were made to further the investigation into the matter.

The judge also denied the motion to dismiss the claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress against all three defendants. The judge found that defendants’ actions could be viewed as extreme and outrageous. Huskins and Quinn alleged, in part, that defendants arrested Quinn, delayed his release from interrogation, and forced him to leave the front of the police station where the media had gathered, in an attempt to garner negative coverage, and that defendants stated publicly that Huskins and Quinn owed an apology to the community for using police resources. The judge found these allegations to have gone beyond merely expressing skepticism on defendants’ part.

Huskins’ and Quinn’s negligent infliction of emotional distress causes of action, based on direct victim claims, were also allowed to proceed.

As the judge found that the lieutenant and detective were not immune from the claims, the city could be liable under respondeat superior, under Cal. Gov’t Code § 815.2.

Lexis subscribers can access the opinion at: Huskins v. City of Vallejo, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103754 (E.D. Cal. June 30, 2017)

Lexis Advance subscribers can find the opinion at: Huskins v. City of Vallejo, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103754 (E.D. Cal. June 30, 2017)

Author:  Cyndi Daub, Lexis-Nexis Case Law Editor


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