6. What is “false imprisonment”?
False imprisonment is the wrongful detention of a person without that person’s consent. The detention does not have to involve physical force. It can involve a threat of physical force or the apprehension of harm for failure to remain in a specific location. The key aspect is that the detained individual must reasonably believe that she cannot leave the detention without unjust repercussions.
• Note: The detention area must be relatively defined.
• Example: This situation often arises when an agent of a retail establishment detains a suspected shoplifter. If the individual is not actually a shoplifter, the detention is wrongful and can constitute false imprisonment.
• Discussion: What type of action do you believe would reasonably make a person believe that she is detained without the ability to leave? Why?
• Practice Question: Everett is a security guard at a local clothing store. He believes that a customer is shoplifting. He asks the customer to step into the back room of the store to interrogate her. Upon arriving in the back room, the customer says that she feels uncomfortable and wishes to leave the store. Everett tells her that the police are coming and that she cannot leave until they arrive. Under what conditions has Everett committed a tort?