Foran Glennon’s New York Casualty Group recently secured a summary judgment victory in a New York Supreme Court case involving claims of false arrest.
Associate Allison Burbage represented a supermarket client in Queens County in a case where the plaintiff alleged that she was wrongly accused of using a stolen credit card by the client’s employees and “falsely arrested and detained” by police.
During discovery, Allison established that prior to the plaintiff’s detainment, two male shoppers were observed in the supermarket using stolen credit cards. Subsequently, the supermarket manager reported the activities of these men to the police and was instructed to contact the police if the men ever returned. On the day of the alleged false arrest, the supermarket manager observed one of the men standing in a check-out line behind the plaintiff and called the police. He did not suggest to the police that the plaintiff was involved in any criminal activity. Nevertheless, the police officers mistakenly detained the plaintiff in the parking lot.
Allison argued that under New York law, a private entity cannot be held liable for a false arrest merely by seeking police assistance or furnishing information to authorities, who are then free to determine whether or not an arrest should be made.
In its decision, the Court adopted Allison’s argument that the client had not encouraged, directed or facilitated the plaintiff’s false arrest and/or detention and could not be held liable simply by having contacted the police to report the activities of a different shopper. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint.