In a false imprisonment and malicious prosecution case litigated for over a decade, this month New York City finally settled with Maria De Lourdes Torres for $4 million. The settlement provides approximately $1 million for each year Torres was jailed at Rikers Island before the murder charges brought against her were dropped in 2007.
According to her attorney, David Perecman of the Perecman Firm, Torres was coerced into signing a confession after an interrogation that lasted 22 hours. A statement on the case from the City's Department of Law reads: "After a review of the issues raised by the Court of Appeals, the evidence and the findings of the district attorney which pointed to Ms. Torres' likely innocence, we have determined that this settlement is fair and in the best interests of the city."
The case is significant in the area of municipal liability for false arrests and prosecutions due to a disagreement between a Queens Supreme Court ruling and a subsequent one by the Court of Appeals; the latter ultimately clarified that the state's probable cause defense could be overcome by the filing of a false confession in a malicious prosecution case. According to Perecman, as quoted in the New York Law Journal, this clarification means that plaintiffs should be able to bring false imprisonment and malicious prosecution claims in state court just as they are able to do in federal court.