The Third District Court of Appeals recently reversed a trial court’s ruling that a bank was negligent when it mistakenly reported that the Plaintiff was a bank robber. In Bank of America Corp. v. Valladares, the Court would not conclude that the bank was liable for a Plaintiff’s personal injuries when a police officer who was called in for the suspected bank robbery kicked the Plaintiff in the head for failing to obey a command.
In doing so, the 3rd DCA cited Pokorny v. First Federal Savings & Loan Ass’n of Largo, 382 So. 2d 678 (Fla. 1980) to emphasize that a party cannot be held liable in Florida for negligently calling the police for the purpose of reporting a crime. The test used in deciding this case and Pokorny was a balancing test, weighing an individual’s protection from abusive accusations against one’s freedom in reporting suspected criminal activity. Florida Court’s have repeatedly held that when one makes a good faith mistake in reporting suspected criminal activity he has a qualified privilege with the sole exception of malicious intent. Here, the Court has simply extended the logic of Pokorny to a good faith mistake that leads to an injury inflicted by the police.
So, if you innocently suspect criminal activity, do not be afraid to report it because there is a shield of qualified privilege protecting you from suit. And, if someone calls the police on you wrongfully, you probably don’t have civil recourse unless you were falsely imprisoned, hurt, or had other damages apart from the call.