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In order to prevail on a claim of false arrest or false imprisonment, the plaintiff must show that the arrest was not legal, i.e., that it was made without probable cause.
Darla Padlo, who was charged with, but not convicted of, aiding and abetting retail fraud, sued defendants, VG's Food Center, Inc., doing business as VG's Food Center and Pharmacy ("VG"), its employees, and the officer that arrested her, alleging false arrest/imprisonment, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), and violation of her Fourth Amendment rights via 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983. The officer was granted summary judgment. The remaining defendants moved for summary judgment.
Was Padlo’s false arrest/imprisonment claim meritorious?
As for Padlo’s false arrest/imprisonment claim, no reasonable juror could have concluded that her arrest for retail fraud lacked probable cause. Defendants were legally justified in suspecting that Padlo intended to commit retail fraud or, at the least, aided and abetted in the commission of such a crime. As for the assault and battery claim, one of the store employees used force by searching Padlo’s pockets without asking first, making the search non-consensual and offensive. Thus, an issue of fact remained on the assault and battery claim as to this employee and as to the store under for respondeat superior liability. As for the IIED claim, Padlo conceded that defendants' behavior was not extreme nor outrageous and that she had not experienced nor suffered any extreme emotional distress. As for the malicious prosecution claim, there was probable cause for Padlo’s arrest and nothing showed that defendants acted with malice. Finally, as for the § 1983 claim, defendants were not acting under color of state law when they detained Padlo to conduct an investigation into a possible theft and called the police.