Hardy v. LaBelleís Distributing Co.

Supreme Court of Montana, 1983.

203 Mont. 263, 661 P.2d 35.

Prosser, p. 41-43.


Facts: The defendants hired Ms. Hardy as a temp.She fell under suspicion of theft.She was brought into the showroom managerís office under the pretense of getting a tour of the store.Several employees and a policeman were in the office, and they informed Ms. Hardy of the accusation of theft.She denied the allegation and agreed to take a lie detector test.The test supported her denial of the theft.


Procedural Posture: Ms. Hardy brought an action for false imprisonment, claiming she had been kept in the office against her will.The trial court dismissed the suit, and Hardy appealed.


Issue: Do the facts support a verdict of false imprisonment against the defendants?


Rule: In order to prove false imprisonment, the plaintiff must show he was restrained unlawfully and against his will.


Analysis:Hardy admitted that even though she felt compelled to stay in the office, she wanted to stay anyway.Therefore, the court argues, it is reasonable for a jury to find that the plaintiff was not held against her will.


Conclusion: The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of the defendants.


Notes and Questions


1.     If there is no threat or use of physical force, there is no false imprisonment.Therefore, there is no false imprisonment until she is confined against her will in the car.

2.     Itís hard to reconcile these two cases, but there does seem to be one difference.The first case seems to imply that the plaintiff has the right to leave the premises freely with property that is rightfully hers.In the second case, the property is not rightfully the plaintiffís because the defendant has a lien on it.

3.     Most intentional torts seem to require some kind of actual force or threat of force.Therefore, it would seem that the case where the defendant threatens never to speak to the plaintiff again would not constitute false imprisonment, because thereís no threat of force.

1.     This seems to confirm my suspicion that false imprisonment is intimately tied to the threat of force.

2.     This would seem like a necessary privilege in terms of policy.


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