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3011Rental Cars - False Arrest

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  • Lawrence
    Jan 29, 2013
      Ferguson v Dollar Rent A Car, Inc. 
      2013 NY Slip Op 00435
      Decided on January 29, 2013
      Appellate Division, First Department
      Edited by Lawrence N. Rogak

      Order, Supreme Court, New York County (Saliann Scarpulla, J.), entered February 28, 2012, which granted defendants Dollar Rent A Car, Inc. and Auto Rental, LLC's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint as against them, unanimously affirmed, without costs.

      Plaintiff alleges that she was wrongfully arrested and detained after defendants negligently rented to her acquaintance a vehicle that had been reported as stolen by another customer and negligently failed to report to the police that the vehicle had been returned. She was arrested while behind the wheel of the vehicle. On appeal, plaintiff argues that, notwithstanding the allegations of false arrest and wrongful imprisonment, the gravamen of her complaint is negligence. The theory of her claim is that, in failing to exercise reasonable care in performing their contractual duties, i.e., by renting the vehicle without notifying the police that it had been returned, defendants " launche[d] a force or instrument of harm'" (see Espinal v Melville Snow Contrs. (98 NY2d 136, 140 [2002]).

      However, the damages plaintiff seeks arose from her arrest and detention, and she may not recover under general negligence principles. "[Her] recovery must be determined by established rules defining the torts of false arrest and imprisonment and malicious prosecution, rules which permit damages only under circumstances in which the law regards the imprisonment or prosecution as improper and unjustified" (Boose v City of Rochester, 71 AD2d 59, 62 [1979]).

      In any event, plaintiff failed to submit evidence of any compensable injury.

      Comment: You might be asking, so what's the difference?  The answer is: statute of limitations.  The statute for false arrest is one year; for negligence, it is three years.  My guess is that this suit was commenced more than 1 year after the incident, and that's why it was dismissed.  Plaintiff tried to save her case by characterizing Dollar's slipup as negligence, but because her damages resulted from a false arrest, that's the cause of action she is stuck with.

      Larry Rogak