The Supreme Court of Wisconsin has defined the tort of false imprisonment as the unlawful restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another. It is apparent, therefore, that a "lawful" restraint does not constitute false imprisonment, though it may well constitute some other tort.
Respondent was a 16 year old student at Marquette University. She was unhappy with the school, but had agreed with her parents to return. After returning to school, respondent decided to go back home, and withdrew money from her bank account to buy a train ticket. University staff became concerned and held Respondent at the school, eventually having her committed to the hospital. Respondent a filed false imprisonment suit Appellants, the university and other individuals, sought review of a decision from the Circuit Court for Milwaukee County (Wisconsin), which entered judgment in favor of respondent. The university argued that the trial court erroneously permitted the jury verdict to be rendered on the question of false imprisonment. The university contended that the minor's only possible cause of action was for malicious prosecution and that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a verdict for malicious prosecution.
Did the court err in entering a judgment for false imprisonment?
The court reversed the judgment of the circuit court and remanded the cause for further proceedings consistent with the opinion, and for a new trial. That portion of the minor's cause of action, insofar as it related to false imprisonment, was dismissed. Prior to the new trial ordered by the court, the minor was required to amend her complaint to allege, if she could, a cause of action for abuse of process.