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    False Imprisonment?

    Alright first off, I'm not looking to press charges on anyone. I just need to know if this is what happened.

    I work at a health club (Lifetime Fitness if anyone is familiar). Last night, we had a tornado warning in our county. It is Lifetime policy to tell all members that they must go into the locker rooms if they wish to remain in the club. We also tell them that they may leave at their own risk.

    The loud speaker announcement was, exactly, "Attention all Lifetime Fitness team members and guests. Dupage county currently has a tornado warning. At this time, all occupants must retreat to their respective locker rooms if they wish to remain in the building. You may leave the building, at your own risk, if you wish to do so."

    That announcement was made several times. I had been working at the pool so I had been clearing people out of our area much earlier since lightning was leading in front of the storm. I was going to leave, but all my coworkers were frightened and wanted me to stay. I stayed until the end of my shift and had enough, so I left. There was a lot of rain and lightning outside, but the wind wasn't bad by us. I had received several reports that the funnel clouds had been sighted in the lower part of the county (Dupage is a rather expansive county), and that the wind were not high by me.

    On my way out, I walked past a physical trainer who said to an older couple "No you can't leave right now. We don't let anyone out during a tornado warning." So... I turned around and walked back to him and asked him if he was telling people they couldn't leave. To see if I had misunderstood him. I did not. He repeated that during a tornado warning, he doesn't let ANYONE leave the building.

    At that point we moved off to the side of everything and I explained to him that he couldn't do that. At no point did any member of the club sign a contract stating that they would agree to be locked into the club for any reason.

    Well I got a phone call this morning from my boss telling me that I was in trouble and that this matter had to be sorted out. The trainer was the assistant manager of the workout floor (which I knew), and according to them it was not my place to say anything to him. I disagree. I would have told our GM the same thing. It was illegal to keep people there against their will. Not to mention, what would have happened if those people would have gotten hurt in some kind of accident after they hadn't been allowed to leave?

    I'm sure I'm going to get yelled at for disagreeing with someone in a higher position than me at the club, but I need some legal advice on this. Was this false imprisonment? And if so, if they had been injured afterward, would there have been further ability for legal recourse?



    Any help would be great. I just can't stand by while someone does something stupid that puts people in jeopardy.

  2. Moderator Distinguished Scholar

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    False imprisonment? Are you serious?

    That was one humdinger of a storm that hit the Chicago area last night. Your physical trainer appeared to show a great concern for the staff that he works with. The chances of folks getting hurt are FAR greater had they been allowed to leave the safety of the building.

    You're not concerned about any potential liability should something have happened while folks remained in the building. You're concerned about getting counseled for questioning a supervisor.

    Gail

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    I disagree with the last poster. It doesn't matter if you think its in there best interest to stay they legally must let them leave if they want to. The law docent protect people who try to do things in someones best interest (besides the Good Samaritan act but that doesn't apply here). So the original poster is correct, No matter how bad the storm is outside -it doesn't matter if there are people having a gang war or mortar going off outside you must let them leave you cannot keep them if they want to leave. The most you can do is advise them its in there best interest to stay.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gail in Georgia View Post
    False imprisonment? Are you serious?

    That was one humdinger of a storm that hit the Chicago area last night. Your physical trainer appeared to show a great concern for the staff that he works with. The chances of folks getting hurt are FAR greater had they been allowed to leave the safety of the building.

    You're not concerned about any potential liability should something have happened while folks remained in the building. You're concerned about getting counseled for questioning a supervisor.

    Gail
    If I was that "concerned about getting counseled for questioning a supervisor" I wouldn't have said anything in the first place. I was more concerned about the rights that both I and members of the club had.

    And regardless of how severe you think the storm was, I was obviously there. I've driven in far worse. As I said, much of the severe weather was south and east of us at the time I was leaving.

    If he had been so concerned about the safety of everyone, I doubt he would have left his position of deterring people from going outside so readily after I scolded him. He could have stood there as long as he wanted and told them as many horror stories as he wanted about what could happen if they left. I have no issue at all with that. I do have issue with keeping 1000 people in locker rooms that fire safety mandates only hold 200 at maximum. Imagine if our transformer had been struck and shorted out our washers, dryers, pool pumps, steam rooms, and several other electrical appliances. I would say the chance of electrical fire is far from nil. Not to mention the people that would be hurt just in the panic such a thing could create.

    I came for advice, not foolish banter.

    Can anyone provide me with any prior cases or legal documentation of similar instances? Much of what I find for false imprisonment is about shoplifters (as I'm sure that's where much of it occurs).

    I was taught plenty about false imprisonment in paramedic school. I just don't have any books that detail it to the letter.

    Any help is great!

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    I don't know of any cases besides wal*mart off the top of my head. I'm not sure if it would be as much false imprisonment was it would be like kidnapping or other things that may be closer related, but it was definitely illegal. Good luck.

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    Speaking of foolish banter....

    Sure; sue them. Judges need a good laugh every now and then.

    Gail

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    Ugg... just because a judge would throw it out doesn't mean it isn't illegal.

    Fine. Magnify the situation if you will. A husband is missing his son's birth because the trainer won't let him leave. There, now you have emotional damages that need to be compensated.

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    It might depend on how your state defines false imprisonment. The employee may well be in the clear depending on how the intent is defined.

    But, since you don't want to do anything about it, what's the point?

    Sure, he might have broken the law ... had you missed a child's birth because of his actions, you might have grounds for some kind of a civil suit (maybe) ... but since you did not call the police for the former, and did not miss the latter, why are you stirring around the hypothetical?

    Next time, you or the others can call his bluff and just leave. If he physically restrains them, then call the police. Maybe sometime AFTER the tornado, they will come and take the report.

    Liability attaches to the store in either case. if they are forced to stay and get injured or killed, the business faces civil liability. If they are allowed to leave and later claim they were not told it was safer to stay, then liability attaches. It sounds as if the business needs to make their policy and practice clear to staff - whatever that policy might be.

    - Carl
    Last edited by CdwJava; 08-06-2008 at 02:22 PM.
    **********
    A Nor Cal Cop Supervisor

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    False Imprisonment...can be a serious offense..

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