Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Statements made in good faith to police officers or others investigating criminal activity cannot be the basis of a tort action. To allow an action in negligence to lie against a citizen if he makes an honest mistake in reporting to the police would have a chilling effect on an important source of information about crime. Citizen cooperation is essential to efficient police operation and should not be stifled.
In February 1981, appellant customer Richard Baggett entered appellee National Bank & Trust Company to deposit his paycheck. He took a deposit slip from the appellant’s supply, filled it out, and handed it to a teller along with his paycheck and his driver's license. Unknown to appellant, there was a stick up note on the reverse side of the slip. The teller saw the note, and told her manager to call the police. Meanwhile, appellant completed his transaction and left without taking anything. When the police arrived, the bank personnel told them that the appellant had not taken anything. Nevertheless, the police still arrested appellant as a suspected bank robber and questioned him at the bank and at the police headquarters. Three hours after his arrest, appellant was released with no formal charges having been lodged against him. He then filed an action against the bank for false imprisonment and negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the appellee bank on the false imprisonment claim, but denied summary judgment on the negligence claim. Both parties appealed.
Did the court correctly deny appellee’s summary judgment on the negligence claim?
The court affirmed the entry of summary judgment on the false imprisonment claim. However, the court reversed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment with respect to negligence claim as the court held that appellee was entitled to summary judgment because appellant’s arrest occurred as the result of an honest mistake in reporting to the police a perceived threat of criminal activity.