TORTS: Store owner had probable cause to reasonably detain customer had sounded the alarm when she left store: MESSER v. ROBINSON (COA 3/21/2008)

MESSER v. ROBINSON
TORTS:   False imprisonment, probable cause, and shopkeeper’s privilege
2007-CA-000977
PUBLISHED: REVERSING
PANEL:  ACREE PRESIDING; STUMBO, GRAVES CONCUR
COUNTY: CLAY
DATE RENDERED: 3/21/2008

In this false imprisonment case, a customer brought action against a retail store and its manager, alleging she was wrongfully detained after her bags caused the store security alarm to sound. In a bench trial, the judge entered a judgment for the customer and awarded her $199,878.00 in damages for pain and anguish, counseling, and court costs.

On appeal, the COA held that the manager had probable cause to stop customer when alarm sounded as the customer left the store.  Under KRS 433.236 the " shopkeeper’s privilege statute" a merchant is authorized to take steps that might inevitably result in some embarrassment to innocent customers, and a reasonable detention authorized by the statute will not give rise to liability.  COA reversed and remanded with instructions.

By Michael Stevens

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