Prince’s Briefcase: Big Town Nursing Home, Inc v. Newman (Hicks Torts)


Professor Hicks Torts: False Imprisonment

Here is a case from my Torts class which explains the definition of False Imprisonment. In this case, restraining a senior citizen at a nursing home is false imprisonment.

Case Name, Author, Citation Number
Big Town Nursing Home, Inc. v. Newman, 461 S.W.2d 195, 1970 Tex. App.

prince's briefcase (princesdailyjournal)Facts
–Plaintiff, 67 year old retired printer
–Defendant, Nursing Home
–Defendant put Plaintiff in Wing 3 with insane person, alcoholics, and drug addicts knowing he was not in such category. They put plaintiff in a restraint chair for mare than 5 hours.
–Plaintiff pleaded to leave, and escaped several times, but the defendant brought him home when he did.
–Plaintiff was not allowed to use a telephone.
–Admission papers provided that the patient “will not be forced to remain in the nursing home against his will.”
–Once the Plaintiff escaped, he lost 30 pounds.

Issue
Did the Defendant intentionally falsely imprisoned the Plaintiff?

Rule
False imprisonment is the direct restraint of one person of the physical liberty of another without adequate legal justification.

Explanation
–The Nursing Home intentionally placed the plaintiff in a facility with insane persons
–The Nursing Home breached their admission papers which provided that the patient “will not be forced to remain in the Nursing Home against his will”

Notes
–Court of appeals gave judgment to the Plaintiff
–False imprisonment is an intentional tort
–Plaintiff was aware of an escape, which he attempted many times, therefore no false imprisonment.
–For false imprisonment to occur the victim has to be aware of no escape–not just his belief that the Nursing Home had no adequate legal justification to imprison him. If he sees an escape and escapes, he was not falsely imprisoned.

Prince’s Takeaway
False imprisonment is very hard to understand. Even though the plaintiff was voluntarily restrained by the nursing home, he was not falsely imprisoned: he escaped. Therefore his “will” was not compromised. Plaintiff still had his “physical liberty.” The plaintiff should be awarded for punitive damages for his condition but not on theory of False Imprisonment. Imprisonment means no way out.

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