Monday, March 25, 2013

Koepnick v. Sears Roebuck & Co. case brief

Koepnick v. Sears Roebuck & Co. case brief 
762 P.2d 609 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1998)

Plaintiff customer brought an action against defendant merchant for false arrest and several other claims. The Superior Court of Maricopa County (Arizona) directed a verdict in favor of the merchant on all charges except false arrest and trespass to chattel. A jury awarded the customer damages for false arrest, and the merchant filed a motion for a new trial. The trial court granted the motion and the customer appealed.

OVERVIEW: The merchant's security guards stopped the customer in a mall parking lot because they suspected him of shoplifting a wrench. The guards detained him for 15 minutes until the police arrived. The customer and a police officer became involved in an altercation in which the customer was injured. The police officer handcuffed the customer, placed a call for a backup, and began investigating. No stolen items were found. The police cited the customer for disorderly conduct and released him. The entire detention lasted 45 minutes. On appeal, the customer argued that the trial court erred in granting a new trial on his false arrest claim.

The court held that the new trial was proper because the trial court had erred in submitting the question of reasonable cause to the jury.

-The undisputed facts showed that the guards had reasonable cause before stopping the customer in the parking lot.
-One guard had talked with all sales persons on the floor in the hardware department, and none had sold the customer the wrench.
-The guard talked with the sales clerk who advised the guard that he believed a shoplift had occurred, and the other guard saw no receipts when he passed by the customer's bag.

OUTCOME: The court affirmed the grant of the merchant's motion for a new trial on the customer's false arrest claim.

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