False Imprisonment in California Torts

This post continues our tour through California tort law. Last time, I went over civil battery which is basically the defendant causing or committing some sort of harmful or offensive contact on the plaintiff without consent and resulting in injury. I’ve also blogged about battery as a criminal offense in California. This time, we’re going to go over false imprisonment which, unfortunately, can have several different definitions and criteria depending on the facts of the situation. The simplest definition is, in essence, that false imprisonment is when a defendant acts without lawful authority and restricts a plaintiff’s freedom of movement for some appreciable amount of time. ¬†Scofield v. Critical Air Medicine, Inc. (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 990, 1006. Defendant locking plaintiff in a room against plaintiff’s will, for instance, would qualify. Incidentally, false imprisonment is also a crime in California under California Penal Code section 236. The criminal definition and the simplest civil definition are identical. The civil definition gets more nuanced if you add in facts such as (1) was the imprisonment due to an arrest or not? (2) if there was an arrest, was it by a California Peace Officer or not? (3) if there was an arrest, was it with a warrant or not? If you’re interested, California defines the term “peace officer” in California Penal Code section 830. Given that some of these permutations don’t make sense (e.g. a private citizen won’t arrest you with a warrant, etc), there’s only three realistic possibilities: #1 – With Arrest by a Peace Officer With a Warrant If an officer has a warrant for your arrest, it does not...

Civil Battery in California Torts

A “tort” is, generally speaking, something that would allow a victim to sue the offender for money. This is different, obviously, from a “crime” in which the relief sought is not money, but rather incarceration. Incarceration can refer to many different things — community service, probation, etc — and not just time served in jail or prison. One of the first torts I learned about in law school was battery followed very quickly by assault. If your law school experience was like mine, then you learned that a civil battery is a “harmful or offensive touching”. A touching could, in theory, be any sort of contact the defendant makes with the plaintiff’s person or something connected to the plaintiff (e.g. something the plaintiff is holding in his hand). A typical defense to a battery cause of action might be the Crowded World Doctrine, for example. The Crowded World Doctrine basically says that the world is full of people so some amount of physical contact — imagine riding a crowded subway train — with other people is an inevitable part of daily life. This definition, however, is theoretical and terribly useful in the real world if you have actually been involved in a civil battery. A more useful definition would be one that, for instance, lists out the various criteria for civil battery. If you fulfill the listed criteria, then you as a plaintiff have made a case for civil battery. Whether you prevail, of course, depends on what defenses the defendant can raise and prove. In California, the elements of a cause of action for civil battery are as...