TRACI BRIDGES, Morning News | Posted: Friday, February 7, 2014 7:35 pm
FLORENCE, S.C. — A Florence County jury awarded a local woman $13,500 in damages this week after finding that a Florence bail bonds company assaulted and falsely imprisoned her in a bizarre case of mistaken identity.
The civil lawsuit against Steven and Theresa Tindal, owners of Blackcat Bail Bonds, arose from an incident that happened April 9, 2012, at the Warley Street home of Monique Eaddy.
According to the lawsuit, defendant Steven Tindal, owner of Black Cat Bail Bonds in Florence, and two other men went to Eaddy’s home about 9:20 a.m. in search of a woman named Ketayeh Ricketts. Tindal flashed a badge and instructed Eaddy to “back up.”
Under the impression that Tindal was a law enforcement officer, Eaddy complied. At that point, Tindal and two other men entered her home.
Tindal asked Eaddy to identify herself. When she did, Tindal accused her of lying about her identity and informed her he had a warrant for her arrest. Tindal insisted Eaddy was Ricketts, the woman he was looking for, and told his associates to place Eaddy in handcuffs.
Once Eaddy was in handcuffs, the men began to search her residence without consent and began comparing photos in her home to a photograph they had of Ricketts. Tindal then asked Eaddy if she had any identification. She called upstairs to her boyfriend, Darrell Brown, and asked him to bring her ID downstairs.
“Mr. Brown came downstairs with plaintiff Eaddy’s ID, and upon being told what was going on, Mr. Brown informed defendant Steven Tindal that plaintiff Eaddy was not the woman they were looking for,” the suit says.
All the while, Eaddy’s then 3-year-old son was standing on the stairs in the home, watching what was going on. Eaddy asked Tindal to let her boyfriend take the child upstairs as he was upset, but Tindal refused.
At some point during the commotion, the two men with Tindal told him that after comparing the photos, they didn’t think Eaddy was the person they were looking for. Eaddy was subsequently released from handcuffs, and the men left.
But the ordeal was not over. About 15 minutes later, the men returned to Eaddy’s residence, claiming that they’d shown the photo of Ricketts to a neighbor who had identified the person in the photo as being Eaddy. Eaddy was once again placed in handcuffs, despite her continued objections that the men had the wrong person. Eaddy was loaded into a black SUV and driven away from her residence.
As Tindal was driving her away from her residence, Eaddy asked him who he worked for. When he told her he worked for Blackcat Bail Bonding, Eaddy informed him she knew his wife and told him his wife would confirm he had the wrong person.
Tindal called his wife and Eaddy overheard him arguing with her about whether or not Eaddy was the right person. Tindal was headed to the Florence County Detention Center in Effingham at the time but by the time the car reached the intersection of Highway 52 and Third Loop Road, he turned around and went back to Eaddy’s residence. Once there, he uncuffed Eaddy and let her go.
Eaddy sued the Tindals and Blackcat Bail Bonds on the grounds of intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery and false imprisonment.
After several days of trial, the defendants admitted to false imprisonment. The jury subsequently found for Eaddy on the grounds of assault and battery, but found for the bail bonds business on the cause of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The jury awarded Eaddy $1,500 in actual damages and $15,000 in punitive damages, but Circuit Judge William Seals lowered the punitive judgment to $13,500.
Eaddy’s attorney, Patrick McLaughlin of Florence, said he thinks the jury’s decision sends an important message to those in the bail bonds industry.
“Ms. Eaddy is thankful to the jury for their service,” McLaughlin said. “Over a year and half ago, Blackcat Bail Bonds came in to her home and treated her like a criminal in front of her child. They were wrong. Ms. Eaddy believes that the jury’s award not only rights that wrong, but she is hopeful that the punitive damages amount will send a clear message to the bail bonds industry and stop the type of reckless behavior that Blackcat engaged in.”