Jackson v. City of San Diego – Case Brief Summary (California)

In Jackson v. City of San Diego (1981) 121 Cal. App. 3d 579, the police arrested Jackson without a warrant and charged him with robbery and murder.

He was convicted and sentenced to state prison. Ten months later he was set free after another individual confessed to the crimes and was tried and convicted. Jackson successfully sued the City of San Diego on a state law claim for false imprisonment and the city appealed.

The appellate court defined the issue as "whether an innocent man, convicted and imprisoned for crimes he did not commit, can obtain damages for the entire period of his incarceration." ( Id. at p. 581.)

The court concluded "as tempting as it might be to focus on the legalism of proximate cause to compensate Jackson for all damages he suffered, we cannot do so." ( Id. at p. 588.)

Observing the Government Code imposes liability on police officers for false arrest and false imprisonment but immunizes them from liability for malicious prosecution (Gov. Code, § 820.4, 821.6), the court in Jackson concluded the Legislature intended "a ceiling be placed on damages which may be awarded for false imprisonment, limiting those damages to the period of incarceration beginning with the false arrest, but ending when lawful process begins." ( Jackson, supra, 121 Cal. App. 3d at p. 582.)

In other words false imprisonment--a violation of a person's personal interest in freedom from restraint--ends at the point where malicious prosecution--a violation of a person's interest in freedom from unjustified litigation--begins. ( Id. at p. 585.)

Therefore, the court held, "Jackson is entitled to all the damages he suffered during the period from his warrantless arrest to the date he was rearrested pursuant to the grand jury indictment." ( Id. at p. 582.)

The court viewed its holding as consistent with Gill v. Epstein, 62 Cal. 2d 611, because Gill never reached the point at which his false imprisonment would have merged into malicious prosecution. Instead, the charges against him were dismissed at the preliminary hearing and therefore he was "not imprisoned beyond an independent evaluation of probable cause." ( Jackson, supra, 121 Cal. App. 3d at pp. 584.)