False imprisonment consists of a willful detention of another without his consent without legal justification.
Appellee employee was a part-time employee working five hours per day as a medical assistant at the appellant's office. Appellee was accused of stealing five dollars. The employer called her into his office and in a rage, he threatened to call the police if she left and then subsequently fired her. The incident caused the employee to have sleepless nights, nightmares, lack of appetite, and would throw up. She stated that she consulted a doctor for these problems, and that she was out of work for five or six months afterwards because she was upset, confused, and unable to work. A case was filed against the employer for false imprisonment and the jury awarded $ 10,000.00 actual damages and $ 10,000.00 exemplary damages to the appellee. Appellant's motion for a new trial was denied.
Was the employer guilty of false imprisonment?
The court reversed the trial court's ruling in favor of appellee employee on her claim for false imprisonment because it found that no false imprisonment occurred. Threats of future action were not sufficient to effect a claim for unlawful imprisonment. The threats to call the police and have appellee arrested were not sufficient in themselves to effect an unlawful imprisonment. The court reversed the trial court's award of actual and exemplary damages, finding that there was no evidence supporting the jury's finding of false imprisonment.