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Randall's Food Mkts. v. Johnson

Supreme Court of Texas

October 19, 1994, Argued ; January 12, 1995, DELIVERED

No. 94-0055

Opinion

 [*642]  Rose Spector, Justice; JUSTICE SPECTOR delivered the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE PHILLIPS, JUSTICE GONZALEZ, JUSTICE HIGHTOWER, JUSTICE HECHT, JUSTICE CORNYN, JUSTICE GAMMAGE, AND JUSTICE ENOCH join.

JUSTICE OWEN not sitting.

This appeal presents three issues regarding an employer's treatment of an employee suspected of misconduct. The first is whether the employer's questioning of the employee about possible theft constitutes "extreme and outrageous conduct" necessary to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional  [*643]  distress. The second is whether the employer's request that the employee [**2]  stay away from a particular area of the business premises during work hours constitutes false imprisonment. The third is whether the employer's statements made in the course of its investigations of employee wrongdoing fall outside of its qualified privilege. For the reasons explained herein, we answer all three questions in the negative. We therefore render judgment that the employee take nothing.

Mary Lynn Johnson, a manager of a Randall's store, purchased several items from the store, but did not pay for a large Christmas wreath that she was holding. Vernon Davis, the check-out clerk, did not charge Johnson for the twenty-five dollar wreath because, after ringing up her other items, he asked her if there was anything else, and she replied that there was nothing else. Davis reported Johnson's failure to pay him for the wreath to management. The store's security guard was then requested to investigate the incident. The guard contacted Lewis Simmons (director of the store), and Simmons reported the incident to Mike Seals (the district manager for that store).

When Johnson returned to work two days later, Simmons escorted her to an office in the back of the store and questioned her [**3]  about the wreath. Johnson admitted that she left the store without paying for the wreath, explaining that she had a lot on her mind at the time. With Johnson in the room, Simmons then called Seals and reported the results of this interview to him. Because Seals wanted to meet with Johnson later that day, Simmons asked her to stay at the store. Simmons told Johnson that he did not think it would be a good idea for her to be on the store's floor; he suggested that she either remain in the office or work on a volunteer project painting a booth for a parade. Johnson chose to wait for Seals in the office. While she waited, Johnson left the office twice, once to use the restroom and the second time to visit a friend in the floral department and to pay for the wreath.

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891 S.W.2d 640 *; 1995 Tex. LEXIS 2 **; 10 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 427; 129 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P57,855

RANDALL'S FOOD MARKETS, INC., VERNON FRANK DAVIS, LEWIS SIMMONS, AND GARY MIKE SEALS, PETITIONERS v. MARY LYNN JOHNSON, RESPONDENT

Prior History:  [**1]  ON APPLICATION FOR WRIT OF ERROR TO THE COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIRST DISTRICT OF TEXAS.

CORE TERMS

wreath, employees, summary judgment, allegations, false imprisonment, complaints, slander, investigate, defamation, communications, questioning, interviews, outrageous, intentional infliction of emotional distress, matter of law, detention, security guard, no writ, privileged, waiting, court of appeals, malice, paying

Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Genuine Disputes, General Overview, Materiality of Facts, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, Torts, Intentional Torts, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Elements, Employers, Activities & Conditions, Intentional Torts, False Imprisonment, Criminal Law & Procedure, Trials, Jury Instructions, Limiting Instructions, Defamation, Slander, Business & Corporate Compliance, Sales of Goods, Remedies, Defenses, Privileges, Qualified Privileges, Truth