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Last year, my fiance, 25, was asked to go to a family gathering

Customer Question

Last year, my fiance, 25, was asked to go to a family gathering in Iowa. Her sisters said they could ride with them from Omaha, NE. Once they completed the family luncheon, they held an impromtu family intervention. They thought she was drinking too much alcohol in the last year and hate the fact that she was with an older man. They invited friends, family, ex-boyfriend(whom her mother adored) and each of them took turns telling her something bad about herself. (Keep in mind that there was not a professional/licensed administrator involved). They took her purse, cell phone, etc and she did not have a car. They said that they were going to commit her to inpatient treatment. She tried to run out the door and her sister and father restrained her. They told her if she didn't go with them, they would call the police and they would take her. Not knowing that the police couldn't do that legally, she went with them. They put her in a hospital against her will (she was not intoxicated, using drugs or anything like that, they just didn't like what she was doing with her life.) She tried to sign herself out of the hospital the next day (which is legal) and the nurse called her family and told them that she was about to sign herself out. The family showed up and brow beat her into staying. Finally, on the second day, she got out and they brought her back to NE. Her family then turned her medical bill into her insurance, which they knew wouldn't cover any of that, and what do you know, when her policy was due for renewal, the insurance company dropped her coverage - actually sent back 2 checks. Now she can not buy life insurance, still haven't been able to find her health insurance...
In my opinion, everyone involved helped commit false imprisonment. On top of that, what would be the monetary damages for not being able to get health or life insurance?

Thanks for your help.

Kip
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 4 years ago.
Kip,

Thank you for your question.

It is horrific that the family decided to that to her. Unfortunately your fiancee's legal rights are fairly limited. If she stayed "committed" and did so under how own free will (dubious), the "intervention" by itself is not illicit. However civilly she CAN file suit against them for false imprisonment (as you mentioned), duress, and possibly intentional infliction of emotional distress. At the same time it is unlikely that your fiancee can collect for the life insurance denial or the job loss, as those may not have been "foreseeable" damages that were incurred due to the intervention. As such I really do not see monetary damages.

I am sorry.

Edited by Dimitry Alexander Kaplun on 10/1/2010 at 8:50 AM EST
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Since there was not a legal reason to have her involuntarily committed, after she spent the night there, she talked to some other patients in the facility and figured out that she did not HAVE to stay there. When she told the lady at the desk that she would be signing herself out, they called her family and told them (I am thinking so they would stop her since it is a town of 1,500 people and everyone knows everyone) Her family is pretty influential in that town, so the nurse probably knew the parents and wanted to inform them. Since she is an adult and was not voluntarily there, wouldn't there be some liability on the hospitals part by calling the parents (revealing personal/medical information)?

Since she would not have been there in the first place without the false imprisonment and being lied to that the police would take her, she would still be able to obtain health insurance. Since, through their actions, she can no longer obtain health insurance, how would they not be responsible? I understand if she had voluntarily went with them, but the fact that they took her across state lines, under false pretenses, took her phone, purse, money, etc and she did not have a car, physically restrained her and then told her that if she did not do what they said, they would have the police come get her, how would they not be responsible for the loss of job/income, and the monetary compensation for any and all future medical bills since she can't get insurance?? Am I missing something??? Very confused - not your fault, I just don't understand.

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 4 years ago.
Thank you for your patience.

You are actually correct--I did miss the HIPAA connection (the fact that her private patient information was provided to third parties by the hospital). however if she left instructions or consented to the call to the family there is no liability. Finding out for sure will take an investigation into what was stated and what was not--for that your fiancee must request copies of her records from the facility to see if she did leave consent for contact to the family.

The remainder, however, is too remote for a cause of action. Directly suing for false imprisonment is one thing--for that your fiancee can retain counsel, but to prove that due to this incarceration she now no longer gets insurance is a bit of a stretch simply because the insurer may not have solely denied coverage on those grounds. That is why I do not see it as a legitimate cause of action.

Edited by Dimitry Alexander Kaplun on 10/1/2010 at 9:30 AM EST
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Isn't false imprisonment a criminal offense as well as a tort? (I have only had business law in college, so bear with me. : ) The fact that she had health insurance and nothing changed except that her family did that to her and then they denied her renewal and actually sent back the check, might have been 2 checks come to think of it. My ex-wife is now using that against me to want to go back to court to get full custody (even thought I pay her 2,205 in child support and 2,000 in alimony. She told me that my fiance's family sent her documentation of her inpatient treatment.

How would you go about proving damages for false imprisonment? She did lose her job and now everyone judges her because her family told everyone that she has been in "inpatient treatment" and supposedly sent the documentation to my ex-wife and she has told everyone as well. When she met with the counselor, the counselor said "what are you doing in here?" She said that he family - yada yada yada - and the counselor told her she should tell her family to f-off.

Sorry for the rambling, just want to make sure you understand the complete story.

 

She is sleeping, so can't ask her the question right now, but even if she did give consent for the hospital to release her info to her family (only reason she would do that is that she couldn't have possibly paid any of those bills) is it legal for her family to turn around and send the paperwork to my ex-wife?

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 4 years ago.
Yes and no. The civil tort of false imprisonment is just that, a civil offense. The criminal version of it is "kidnapping", and your fiance may choose to pursue it by contacting the police. As it sounds like your fiance is fairly timid and does not wish undue attention, I did not post that as an option simply because it sounds unlikely that she would agree to do so.

Figuring out values for false imprisonment can be complex but the shortcut may be to request fees and costs that she incured by being charged for the in treatment, and then requesting a large amount for punitive damages. Having the family send information to your ex-wife is frankly appalling--those individuals have no limits it seems. In this case you personally can also file suit for harassment, invasion of privacy, and defamation of character (as can your fiancee against them also).

Good luck.

I

Edited by Dimitry Alexander Kaplun on 10/1/2010 at 9:48 AM EST
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Have 2 more questions for you, but too tired now. When will you be on tomorrow? Will accept your answer then so you can get paid. Eyes are burning and fiance' is now yelling at me. Promise will pay tomorrow after those 2 questions. Have a good morning...
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 4 years ago.
Good evening--we will talk whenever you get back online. Please be aware that I may not be on 24/7 so if there is a delay, kindly forgive me. If you wish to start a new thread, simply title it "For Dimitry..." so that I will be able to assist you directly.

Good luck!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Are you really a lawyer? False imprisonment is absolutely a criminal offense. Ther is first degree and second degree. I talked to my lawyer buddy in Chicago and he laughed at me when I repeated what you said, that false imprisonment is only a civil offense? I felt pretty darned silly.

For that reason, I am not going to "Accept Answer" because I don't know how much other misinformation you gave. Seems like you are working on too many questions at the same time and forget what you are doing.

 

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 4 years ago.
"False Imprisonment" IS a civil offense. As I stated, a criminal version of false imrisonment is called "kidnapping". Not all states have "false imprisonment" as a misdemeanor criminal offense, while ALL states recognize "false imprisonment" as a civil offense. Yes, I really am an attorney, and while you may not be happy with my response, it is valid.

It is your choice whether or not to accept my answer, or claim that it is misinformation. Good luck to you.
Expert:  Brandon M. replied 4 years ago.
As my colleague attempted to explain, "false imprisonment" is what "kidnapping" is called in the civil arena. When someone is charged criminally with the offense, it is called "kidnapping" (or, in some jurisdictions "abduction"). When someone is charge civilly, it is called "false imprisonment".

I give your friend in Chicago the benefit of the doubt that he is competent in whatever area of law he practices, but he should perhaps crack open his first-year law school text books for tort law and criminal law to review the differences in terminologies.

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Brandon M.
Brandon M.
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Attorney experienced in numerous areas of law.