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Kalbfell v. Marc Glassman, Inc. - 2003-Ohio-3489 (Ct. App.)

Rule:

Both false arrest and false imprisonment are defined as the unlawful restraint or control by one person over the physical liberty of another. The restraint can be actual or implied. Threat of force or display of authority are methods of implied restraint. Restraint occurs if the words, conduct, or display of authority are such as to cause or give rise to a fear or apprehension of force and to overcome the plaintiff's will. The addition of "display of authority" to the test means that ordering a plaintiff to follow, in such a manner and under such circumstances that plaintiff reasonably believes she must so follow, is sufficient to establish confinement. Similarly, the Ninth Appellate District (Ohio) has held that there is sufficient evidence of an employer's false imprisonment where a police officer, after being informed by the store that the plaintiff was suspected of theft, asked the plaintiff, "Will you come with me?"

Facts:

Employees of Marc’s Salem, Ohio store told the manager that Tammy Kalbfell, a store patron, had been arrested for shoplifting in another store and was banned from shopping there; neither charge was true. The manager called a security guard over the loudspeaker to go to where Kalbfell was standing. The guard took her to a back room where she was held for up to 20 minutes. After the security guard has been told that he cannot ban patrons from the office, he apologized to Kalbfell. Kalbfell left the office crying and remained in the store to complain to the manager who refused to meet with her until she actively sought him out. Thereafter, Kalbfell sued Marc’s for false imprisonment, defamation, invasion of privacy, negligent employment, and negligent infliction of emotional distress; Kalbfell voluntarily dismissed the latter two claims during trial. The complaint, which she filed in the local county court, asked for $ 15,000 in compensatory damages, costs, and attorneys' fees. On March 31 and April 1, 1999, the jury heard the case and then, returned a general verdict for Kalbfell. The jury awarded $ 10,000 in compensatory damages, $ 5,250 in punitive damages, and attorneys' fees. Marc’s moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a new trial. The county court denied the motion, and Marc’s appealed. Marc’s argued that there was no support for Kalbfell’s claims of false imprisonment, defamation, and invasion of privacy, respectively. Furthermore, Marc’s argued that the award of punitive damages was without basis, and it was not requested in the complaint.

Issue:

Was there support for Kalbfell’s claims of false imprisonment, defamation, and invasion of privacy, respectively? Was the award of punitive damages proper?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The appellate court held that evidence that the guard, wearing a "Security" shirt, ordered Kalbfell to come with him was a sufficient display of authority to support the false imprisonment claim. A false communication about Kalbfell made with actual malice and in the scope of employment by one employee to another was sufficient "publication" to support the defamation claim. As the store did not ask for special interrogatories, and there was sufficient evidence on the false imprisonment and defamation claims, even if invasion of privacy should not have been submitted to the jury, the store was not prejudiced. The court further held that punitive damages, though not requested in the complaint, were properly awarded. The compensatory damage award was not the product of passion or prejudice requiring a new trial, nor was it so excessive as to require remittitur.

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