A Miami-Dade jury said Bank of America acted negligently when employees identified Rodolfo Valladares as a robber and activated a silent alarm.
When Rodolfo Valladares walked into an Aventura Bank of America, he simply wanted to cash his $100 check. A jumpy bank teller, thinking he looked like a robber, hit a silent alarm.
Police from Aventura and Miami-Dade rushed to the bank, ordered everyone to the floor as they physically detained Valladares, handcuffing him and kicking him in the head, his lawyer said. He was let go when bank employees and police realize they made a mistake.
For his troubles, Valladares soon will be getting a much bigger check.
A Miami-Dade jury has awarded Valladares $3.3 million in damages after ruling that the bank was negligent in triggering the silent alarm, then failing to cancel it when employees realized he was not a robber.
Valladares, 50, a former mortgage company loan officer, still suffers from headaches, blurred vision and post-traumatic stress disorder, said his attorney Russell S. Adler.
Bank of America plans to appeal the verdict, believing their employees acted reasonably.
“We are disappointed,’’ said bank spokesperson Shirley Norton.
The July 3, 2008 incident happened at a time when bank tellers were on high alert because of a warning about a male Hispanic wearing a Miami Heat hat had been robbing banks in the area.
Bank of America’s corporate security had emailed a surveillance photo and a description of the robber.
When Valladares – wearing a Miami Heat cap - walked in, teller Meylin Garcia activated the alarm, though she did not have the photo on hand.
If she had, it would have shown the differences between Valladares and the bank robber, his lawyers said.
The robber in the bulletin was in his 60s and weighed about 145 pounds. Valladares was 46 at the time and weighed more than 200 pounds.
And Valladares made no move to rob the place. He handed over his check and driver’s license. Meanwhile, Garcia made small talk to keep him there until police arrived. Valladares even invited the woman to a Fourth of July barbecue.
Valladares “displayed no weapon, made no threat and demanded no money,” according to the lawsuit.
Police from Aventura and Miami-Dade rushed in and ordered everyone to the floor as they physically detained Valladares.
Finally, after talking to employees and Valladares, officers let him go. He was not arrested.
“He wasn’t even wearing the same Miami Heat hat,” said his attorney, Mark G. DiCowden. “If Bank of America had required its tellers to keep pictures of robbers at the teller stations, this whole incident would have never happened.”
Valladares sued. The five-day trial finished Friday in front of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Diane Ward.
“To add insult to injury, they cashed his check after finally telling police officers it was a false alarm,” Adler said.