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Peters v. Menard, Inc. - 224 Wis. 2d 174, 589 N.W.2d 395 (1999)


Four elements must exist for a plaintiff to maintain a cause of action for negligence: a duty of care on the part of the defendant; a breach of that duty; a causal connection between the conduct and the injury; and an actual loss or damage as a result of the injury. In Wisconsin, every person owes a duty of care to the entire world to refrain from conduct which foreseeably could cause harm to others. In addition, every person in all situations has a duty to exercise ordinary care for his or her own safety.


A decedent's representative and a guardian-ad-litem of minor children filed a wrongful death suit against security guards of a department store who chased the decedent for suspected shoplifting and attempted to rescue decedent when he jumped into a flooding river to get away from them. The security guards won on summary judgment and decedent’s representative appealed.


Was summary judgment in favor of the security guards proper?




Jurisprudence immunizes a merchant or its agents from civil or criminal liability for actions taken while attempting to detain a person, including pursuit, as long as the statute's three reasonableness requirements are met. These three requirements were that there must be reasonable cause to believe that the person violated § 943.50, that the detention and the actions taken in an attempt to detain must be reasonable in manner, and that the detention and the actions taken in an attempt to detain must continue for only a reasonable length of time. As such, the court found that all three requirements were met and plaintiffs offered no proof to create a genuine issue of material fact. Thus, security guards could not be held liable for wrongful death.

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