Monday, November 11, 2013

Coblyn v. Kennedy’s, Inc. case brief

Coblyn v. Kennedy’s, Inc. case brief summary
268 N.E.2d 860 (Mass. 1971)

A store (the Defendant) appealed a Massachusetts superior court decision for a customer (Plaintiff) in an action that was brought to recover damages for the tort of false imprisonment.
The store argued that the store did not falsely imprison the customer and also objected to the jury instructions given.


A customer (P) brought an action against a store (D) for false imprisonment.
The customer suffered a heart attack shortly after being stopped by a store employee right before exiting the store.
The customer was escorted to see the manager because he was putting on a scarf that he took out of his pocket.
After the trial, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff.

  • On the store's appeal, it alleged that the detention was reasonable under a MA statute, which permitted a merchant to defend a false imprisonment claim by asserting that there were reasonable grounds for believing the person detained was attempting to commit larceny of goods. 
  • The court held that the jury was properly instructed by the judge that grounds for detention were reasonable when there existed a basis which would appear to the reasonably prudent, cautious, intelligent person. 
  • The court applied the standard of reasonableness as measured by the prudent man test, and held that the evidence warranted the conclusion that the store employee was not reasonably justified in believing that the customer was engaged in shoplifting. 
  • The court affirmed the trial court's decision.
There had been no error in denying defendant store's motion for a directed verdict.
The jury was properly instructed on the law of the case.
The store employee was not reasonably justified in the belief that the plaintiff customer was shoplifting.

Suggested Study Aids For Tort Law

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