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False Arrest Nets Guard and Wife $1.2 Million

A Florida jail guard and his wife, a jail food safety inspector, have been awarded $1,231,700 for their arrest on false charges of smuggling drugs into the jail.

On September 11, 2003, Lawrence and Gayle Femminella were arrested on charges of smuggling narcotics into the Palm Beach County Jail. Mrs. Femminella was arrested in front of her children and neighbors. Both Femminellas maintained their innocence, but were detained for five hours before detectives "determined that the informant, a convicted felon, fabricated a story about them, hoping to receive a lighter sentence." The Femminellas were cleared and Mr. Femminella returned to work at the jail.

The Femminellas sued the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and the investigator who ordered their arrest, for false arrest. Defendants admitted liability and a trial was held to determine damages. Plaintiffs "sought $2.5 million for lost earnings, medical expenses for psychological counseling, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life." Defendants argued that since the Femminellas were cleared, they suffered no harm.

A Palm Beach jury sided with the Femminellas, awarding Lawrence $816,200 and Gayle $415,500, for a total award of $1,231,700. See: Femminella v. Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, Palm Beach County Circuit Court No. 5204-CA-009484 (2/6/06).

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Related legal case

Femminella v. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office