A 2008 incident that started out as a routine trip to the bank for a Miami man but quickly turned into a terrifying nightmare has resulted in a $3.3 million jury award. According to the Miami Herald, on July 3, 2008, Rodolfo Valladeres walked into a Bank of America to cash a check for $100. The bank teller, thinking that Valladeres was there to rob the bank, triggered a silent alarm to alert police. Minutes later, local police descended upon the bank, rushed inside, and ordered everyone to the ground. They then grabbed Valladeres and forced him to the floor, where he was handcuffed and even kicked in the head. It took bank employees and police several minutes before they realized that they had the wrong man.
Around the same time, Miami police had alerted area banks about another man who was a suspect in several robberies. The man, whose image had been captured on surveillance videos at other banks, was also Hispanic, but he was about fifteen to twenty years older than Valladeres and weighed about 55 pounds less. Valladeres happened to be wearing a Miami Heat hat, as was the suspect in the surveillance video. However, according to Valladeres' attorney, it was not even the same design.
In court, Valladeres' attorney argued that the reason for the mistaken identity was that Bank of America did not require its employees to keep photographs of suspected bank robbers at their individual teller stations. Instead, bank tellers were shown the photograph of the robber and had to try to remember the face throughout the day. If the teller who triggered the silent alarm had a picture of the actual robber nearby, she likely would have realized that it was not the same man. Valladeres would have been able to cash his check and go about his business.
This situation involves a range of unique Florida civil law principles.
Florida false imprisonment law provided Valladeres with a cause of action in this case. False imprisonment generally refers to situations when one is held against their will--even for a short time. While it may sound like it refers to police detainment, in most cases it does not. In fact, it is often difficult to win a suit against law enforcement officers of this kind. Instead, most false imprisonment suits involve being detained by private individuals or businesses. In this case, the man sued Bank of America for their negligent behavior in incorrectly identifying him as the robbery suspect which led to the situation.
Since the incident, Valladeres has suffered from headaches and blurred vision, as well as emotional problems resulting from the trauma of being tackled and handcuffed by police. Although those injuries were inflicted by the police, our Palm Beach injury lawyer knows that Florida negligence law allows him to hold Bank of America responsible because the injuries were a direct and foreseeable result of the bank's mistake.
As with any kind of Florida personal injury lawsuit, Valladeres and his attorney are hopeful that the jury's verdict will send a message to banks and other private businesses to always be absolutely positive that they have the right person before subjecting them to the pain, trauma, and humiliation of being arrested. No one should have to endure what Valladeres went through that day. The verdict in this case will go a long way towards ensuring that the same kind of thing does not happen to others in our area.
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