When Does Prescription Start To Run In False Imprisonment and Arrest Cases?

prison_jail_barbed_wire-1024x768Prescription refers to the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. If you do not comply with this procedural requirement, your case will be dismissed. In order to determine the date by which you must file your lawsuit, you need to know both the prescription period and when the period started to run. This case analyzes when the prescription period starts to run for false imprisonment and false arrest claims. 

The Eunice Police Department arrested Paul Powell, Marlon Eaglin, and two others. They were charged with second degree murder. A few months after his release from prison, Eaglin filed a lawsuit against the police department, the city of Eunice, and the chief of police (the “defendants”) for false arrest and imprisonment. Over a year after their arrest, but less than year after they were released from prison, Eaglin amended his lawsuit to add Powell as a plaintiff.

The defendants filed an exception of prescription, arguing Powell’s claims were prescribed because he filed them over a year after the date of his arrest. Powell argued he had not exceeded the one-year prescription period because his claims related back to Eaglin’s claims, which had been filed within the required time period. Powell also claimed his false imprisonment claim was not prescribed because he had filed it within a year of being released from prison.

The trial court granted defendants’ exception of prescription and dismissed Powell’s claims. Powell filed an appeal and the court of appeals reversed the claim and held Powell’s cause of action for false imprisonment was timely because he had filed it within a year of being release from prison. Defendants then appealed, and the Louisiana Supreme Court took the case. 

Prescription begins to run from the day the damage or injury occurs. See La. C.C. art. 3492. Here, Powell’s damages or injuries for false arrest and imprisonment began on the day he was arrested. Therefore, prescription also started to run that day. Although Powell argued the United States Supreme Court held the statute of limitations for false imprisonment claims starts to run on the day when the false imprisonment ends, the Louisiana Supreme Court explained there are significant differences between statutes of limitations and civil law prescription. See Louisiana Health Services and Indem. Co., v. McNamara. 

In this case, nothing suggested Powell would not have been able to file his lawsuit while still in imprisoned. Additionally, Eaglin, who had been imprisoned along with Powell, had been able to file his lawsuit during the required prescription period. Therefore, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s judgment and reinstated the trial court’s grant of defendants’ exception of prescription because Powell had filed his claim outside the one-year period of prescription and dismissed Powell’s claims.

A good attorney can advise you on what the period of prescription is for your claim and help you determine when that period started to run. Otherwise, you will be unable to recover for your claim because a court will dismiss your claim and not consider its merits. 

Additional Sources: Marlon Eaglin v. Eunice Police Dept., et al.

Article Written By Berniard Law Firm

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