Legal Question in Personal Injury in California

I posted this earlier today, but I believe I may have posted it under the wrong type of law category.

A unique case of "False Imprisonment"?

I am a semi-quadriplegic man who is confined to an electric wheelchair. I am able to operate my wheelchair independently with the limited mobility of my right arm. I live on a 1 acre parcel with two 1 acre parcels located between my parcel and the main highway. The middle parcel is a flag lot and I have a deeded easement for ingress, egress and utilities over the middle parcel so I can get to the main highway. There is no other path of access from my home to the main highway and the easement is the only thing keeping my parcel from being landlocked.

The owner of the flag lot parcel installed a rubber speed bump approx. 20' from where my property line is and the easement starts. The dimensions of the speed bump and the location are such that I cannot go over or around it and therefore I cannot leave my property. For me to be able to go off my property, I need a specially equipped vehicle and operator with a wheelchair lift to pick me up, secure me down and drive me off my property.

I have asked the neighbor to either modify or remove the speed bump due to the complications it causes me and he refuses. I have asked the Sheriff's Department, on the day it was installed, Fire Department and Building Department to require the neighbor to remove the speed bump and they all told me it was a civil matter.

I filed in Superior Court for an injunction requiring the neighbor to remove the speed bump and the judge's response was that the matter was "too complicated for his court" and "the only way this matter can be settled is by someone moving away".

California Penal Code 236 states that

"False imprisonment is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another".

In looking for definitions about false imprisonment, I have found these explanations:

"False imprisonment is sometimes called false arrest. It protects the personal interest in freedom from restraint of movement. Imprisonment does not necessarily mean incarceration (although it may include it); one can be imprisoned when restrained in the open street, or in a traveling automobile.

"The restraint may be by means of physical barriers, or by threats of force which intimidate the person into compliance".

Any information or thoughts regarding this matter would be extremely appreciated!

Asked on 3/27/12, 6:56 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

George Shers Law Offices of Georges H. Shers

The other person's actions would not constitute false imprisonment but rather a violation of the easement since he is not allowed to build anything on it that prevents you from being able to use it. It may also violate the building and fire codes in making it impossible for emergency vehicles to come to your home. I do not understand why a judge would not make a decision on the case. See if the other lot owner will just make a cut in the speed bump so you can get through or allow you to put a ramp up on either side to be able to get over the bump.

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Answered on 3/27/12, 9:10 pm
Tony Carballo Carballo Law Offices

My reaction was the same as Mr. Shers in that the speed bump appears to violate your easement rights and I have never heard a judge say it is too complicated to make a decision. That is not one of the grounds upon which a judge can refuse to adjudicate a dispute.

Given that the owner knows your specific situation, the argument of false imprisonment should not be ignored as it is hard to believe that person would not be willing to accommodate your special requirements for use of the easement, particularly if having a speed bump in an area of large lots does not appear to be that necessary and a cut in the bump could be all is required.

Intentional infliction of mental distress may also be a possible cause of action. However, interference with easement rights gives you a better chance of getting an injunction. The tort causes of action, such as false imprisonment and intentional infliction of mental distress, are better for monetary damages.

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Answered on 3/28/12, 3:21 am

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