Law School Case Brief
Sindle v. N.Y.C. Transit Auth. - 64 Misc. 2d 993, 316 N.Y.S.2d 657 (Sup. Ct. 1970)
When a public school bus driver, acting on his announced intention of taking the plaintiff and the other passengers to the police station based upon the passengers' disruptive behavior, failed to stop at his scheduled stops, failed to open the bus doors and departed from the scheduled route, he imposed unlawful restraints on the freedom of the infant plaintiff. These deliberate, intentional, and willful acts constitute false imprisonment.
Plaintiff J.H.S., a 14-year-old student, boarded a school bus owned by defendant New York City Transit Authority ("NYCTA"); the bus was operated by defendant Mooney. The children on the bus were being noisy and disruptive, so Mooney informed the children, including J.H.S., that the bus would take the children to the police station instead of making its scheduled stops. In an attempt to escape the bus, J.H.S. either fell or jumped from the bus window. The bus then drove over J.H.S., causing J.H.S. to suffer injuries. Thereafter, J.H.S., by Terance Sindle, his father, filed a lawsuit in New York state court against defendants seeking to recover damages for his injuries. J.H.S. alleged causes of action for false imprisonment and negligence. At trial, the negligence claim was abandoned, and the matter was heard by the court, without a jury, on the sole issue of liability on the cause of action for false imprisonment. At the close of plaintiffs' case, defendants filed a motion to amend their answers to include the affirmative defense of justification.
Were defendants liable for the false imprisonment of J.H.S.?
The court rendered judgment for J.H.S. The court denied defendants' motion to amend because the motion could not be granted without prejudice to plaintiffs, and moreover, defense counsel stated at trial that he had no proof that J.H.S. was disorderly or caused any damage to the bus. The court then ruled that Mooney had no warrant for J.H.S.' arrest, and since defendants failed to plead justification, no evidence was received to show justification for the restraint of the freedom of J.H.S. When Mooney, acting on his announced intention of taking J.H.S. and the others to the police station, failed to stop at his scheduled stops, failed to open the bus doors and departed from the scheduled route, he imposed unlawful restraints on the freedom of J.H.S. These deliberate, intentional, and willful acts constituted false imprisonment, and since Mooney was acting within the scope of his employment, his employer, NYCTA, was also liable.
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