Is Missing Vacation Good Enough for Damages?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 11, 2019

Bloodied and battered, Rene Richards told police her boyfriend had beaten her.

She had trouble explaining details, saying his name was George Harris or George Harrison. The officers showed her a photo, and the woman identified the man. As George Harrison tried to board a plane for vacation, Homeland Security took him into custody. He said they had the wrong guy, and he was right.

In a civil rights lawsuit, he says it wasn't a case of mistaken identity; it was a case of sloppy police work.

Mistaken Identity

Harrison was on his way to Iceland for a family vacation when he was arrested at the Baltimore Washington Marshal airport. Instead of leaving for a vacation, Harrison was abruptly leaving his family behind as police took him to jail. He spent three days in a Maryland detention center before police figured it out. Harrison didn't even match the victim's description. Richards, who had identified him by the photo, was intoxicated at the time.

In Harrison v. City of Chattanooga, Harrison says the police falsely arrested him, abused their authority and violated his constitution rights. The city, he says, failed to train them properly. According to the complaint, the police did not corroborate information about the suspect's vehicle because of a computer malfunction. They also didn't check vehicle records to "exculpate" Harrison, the lawsuit says.

Vacation Interrupted

False arrests and civil rights lawsuits happen all the time. But this one made the news because Harrison wants $27 million for his interrupted vacation. ABC News said the victim cleared up the misidentification, but that was too late for Harrison's trip. Not only that, he said in the complaint, the whole mishap hurt his shoulders and back. So it wasn't a $27 million vacation. Harrison wants damages for physical pain, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. The complaint also seeks attorney's fees and costs.

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