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The shopkeeper's privilege expressly grants an employee the authority of law to detain a customer to investigate the ownership of property, so long as 1) the employee has a reasonable belief the customer steals or is attempting to steal store merchandise; 2) the detention is for a reasonable amount of time; and 3) the detention is in a reasonable manner. In order to recover for mental anguish, a plaintiff must offer either direct evidence of the nature, duration, or severity of his or her anguish, thus establishing a substantial disruption in the plaintiff's daily routine, or other evidence of a high degree of mental pain and distress that is more than mere worry, anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or anger. On the other hand, to prevail under a negligence claim, a plaintiff must show 1) a legal duty; 2) a breach of that duty; and 3) damages proximately caused by the breach.
Plaintiff customer Lyndon Silva was a hairstylist. While working at his place of employment, he received three shirts as a gift from a customer who has since returned to her native country. The customer also gave the receipt in case he wanted to exchange them. In June 1997, he went to a mall, where one of his friends opened a new hair salon. Plaintiff also took the three shirts to exchange them. After touring the new salon, plaintiff went to his car, retrieved the three shirts, and went to defendant Dillard Department Stores Inc. He attempted to return the shirts at the cosmetics/accessories counter but was told he needed to exchange them at another department. Before leaving, he purchased a back brush and was issued a receipt. He also purchased a shirt, making him eligible to purchase a travel bag as a promotional item. Plaintiff testified that he began to experience a headache and asked directions to the water fountain so he could take some medicine. According to him, defendant’s security guard stopped him while he was on his way to the water fountain. The security guard accused him of theft and placed him on the floor and handcuffed him. The officer also emptied his shopping bag onto the floor and there were lots of people watching. He further testified that no one asked him for an explanation and that, while in the office, the officer and a woman made fun of him. Plaintiff suffered emotional harm as a result of the incident. He was found innocent of the criminal charges. Plaintiff then sued defendant store for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. The jury found that the defendant was liable for all claims, except malicious prosecution, and awarded compensatory and punitive damages. The district court denied the defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and/or its motion for a new trial. Hence, defendant store appealed.
Was the trial court correct in holding that defendant was liable for:
1. False imprisonment?
2. Intentional infliction of emotional distress?
The appellate court upheld the jury's verdict, with the exception of the defendant-appellant’s liability for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court held that the evidence was insufficient to support the findings of intentional infliction of emotional distress in that the appellant’s behavior was not outrageous since the jury found that the defendant had probable cause to initiate the criminal proceedings. Also, the court found that there was no negligence because the plaintiff failed to show evidence that the defendant negligently hired its employees or failed to institute adequate store policies. However, the appellate court found that the evidence was sufficient to support the finding of false imprisonment in that defendant could not have claimed the shopkeeper's privilege, as there was evidence that the detention was not conducted in a reasonable manner. Therefore, the district court's judgment was reversed to the extent that it adjudged the defendant liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress and for negligence. In all other respects, the judgment was affirmed.