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Another example: police investigation of innocent party's conduct does not subject officer to liability

Several recent decisions in the sphere of governmental immunity have addressed police officers' exposure to liability when they detain, arrest, seize property, or otherwise interfere with the life of a citizen who is ultimately deemed to be entirely innocent of wrong-doing.  The Court of Appeals addressed this issue again in Catherine Simmons v. Greektown Casino, LLC, and Steven Ford.  Ford was called to the casino when Simmons was observed running cash through a slot machine.  It appeared to Casino employees and the State Trooper that Simmons was deliberately feeding large amounts of cash into the slot machine in order to convert the cash into slot machine tickets in an amount below the $10,000.00 threshold where "money laundering" reports must be made to the government. 

It turned out that Simmons had recently refinanced her mortgage, leaving her with almost $40,000.00 in cash, and that her activities were entirely innocent. She filed suit against the Casino and Ford, arguing that the Trooper did not have reasonable grounds for detaining her or seizing her cash.  The case against the Casino was dismissed without an appeal, but Simmons did appeal the judge's decision to toss the case against Ford.  She argued that her pleadings created a question of fact with regard to whether Ford acted in good faith in violating her civil rights. In particular, she claimed that Ford was lying or mistaken in his claim that she was exchanging smaller bills for $100.00 bills.  The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of Simmons' case, holding that to the extent she alleged a question of fact, it was not sufficiently material to defeat Ford's claim that he had acted in good faith.  Viewed objectively, Simmons' actions were sufficient "suspicious" to warrant investigation.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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