Big Town Nursing Home, Inc. v. Newman
Plaintiff was admitted to defendant's nursing home. He had previously been treated for alcoholism, but had not drunk anything the week before being admitted. The admission papers said that he would not be held against his will. Plaintiff decided to leave the nursing home and tried to call a taxi, but defendant would not let him use the phone and locked up his clothes. He then tried to escape five or six time but was caught and brought back to Wing 3, where defendant kept mentally ill patients. Defendant was locked and taped in a "restraint chair" for over five hours. Defendant repeatedly asked to leave, which was denied. Finally, defendant escaped to Dallas, although he lost 30 pounds throughout his ordeal.
Jury found for the plaintiff.
Was defendant falsely imprisoned?
False imprisonment is the direct restraint of one person of the physical liberty of another without adequate legal justification.
Defendant placed plaintiff in a wing with insane persons, knowing that he was not in such category, punished him by locking him in a the restraint chair, prevented him from using a phone for 51 days, locked up his clothes, told him he could not be released until he obeyed, and detained for for 51 days. Defendant acted in utter disregard of plaintiff's legal rights, knowing there was no court order for commitment.
There is ample evidence that plaintiff was falsely imprisoned. Damages were excessive, but affirmed after plaintiff agreed to the remittitur.