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JOHN N. GODINES, BY AND THROUGH HIS FATHER AND NEXT FRIEND, RODOLF GODINES & JOSEPH D. PHILLIPS, JR., BY AND THROUGH HIS MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND, HELEN PHILLIPS v. FIRST GUARANTY SAVINGS & LOANS ASSOCIATION AND JAMES P. ACHEE

MAY 11, 1988

JOHN N. GODINES, BY AND THROUGH HIS FATHER AND NEXT FRIEND, RODOLF GODINES & JOSEPH D. PHILLIPS, JR., BY AND THROUGH HIS MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND, HELEN PHILLIPS
v.
FIRST GUARANTY SAVINGS & LOANS ASSOCIATION AND JAMES P. ACHEE



BEFORE DAN LEE, ROBERTSON AND ZUCCARO.

DAN LEE, PRESIDING JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

John N. Godines and Joseph D. Phillips, Jr., by and through their parents and next friends, appeal the summary judgment granted in favor of First Guaranty Savings and Loan Association (First Guaranty) and James P. Achee. Godines and Phillips were plaintiffs below in a suit filed in the Circuit Court of Harrison County, Mississippi, alleging assault and battery, slander, false arrest, and false imprisonment by First Guaranty by and through its agent, Achee. The complainants sought $500,000 actual and $500,000 punitive damages. Godines and Phillips appeal, assigning as their only error that the trial court improperly granted summary judgment.

The events took place at a First Guaranty Savings and Loan branch office located in a small shopping center adjacent to Gulfport High School. The branch's layout is generally reflected in Exhibit" A "to the deposition of Pat Achee. The principal action occurred in the teller area, the adjacent office with separate doors leading to the teller area and lobby, and in front of the branch office.

 About one week before the incident in question, Joseph Phillips, a high school student, went to the First Guaranty branch office in question after working hours. On that occasion Achee met Phillips at the door and told him the bank was closed.

 About one week later, on Friday, August 17, 1984, Phillips was given a ride to the bank by his friend, John Godines, also a high school student. Godines parked his truck in front of the bank and Phillips went inside to cash a check. Godines read a newspaper while waiting in the truck.

 Achee stated he immediately became suspicious of Phillips because when he entered the branch he did not immediately get in line, but rather walked to a chair and sat for a few seconds and then arose and started pacing. It was at this time that Achee moved behind the teller's counter to observe things further.

 Inside, Phillips got in the line behind two or three people at the only open teller window. When Phillips' turn came, Achee waited on him instead of the teller. The other customers left, including Achee's father, who was not an employee of First Guaranty.

 Phillips asked to negotiate a two-month-old $60 check drawn on a Florida bank. Achee asked Phillips whether he had a checking or savings account with the bank, to which Phillips responded," A checking account, "which was not the case. Phillips told Achee his parents' names and that he lived a couple of blocks away from the branch on Courthouse Road. Achee

 also looked for a savings account listing, which Phillips did have, but could not confirm it because Phillips did not have his passbook, did not know the account was a savings account, and the check was to Joe Phillips, not Joseph D. Phillips, the style of the savings account.

 Phillips' behavior inside the branch was, in his own words," strange and erratic. "While waiting for Achee to cash the check, Phillips ran his fingers nervously through his hair and showed his impatience. He watched his reflection overhead in a mirrored ball chandelier in the lobby and became so impatient that he banged his forehead against the teller's counter. At no time, however, did Phillips display a weapon or physically attack anyone. There is no evidence that he verbally threatened anyone.

 After Achee checked the records, he left Phillips at the teller's window and entered an adjacent non-public office, leaving the door to the teller area open. Achee told employee Rhonda Herrod to call the police about a suspicious person. At this point, Phillips opened the lobby door and entered without permission, carrying a crushed drink can. Achee turned around to face Phillips, who was standing between Achee and the doors. Phillips stated he entered the door because it was taking a long time to cash the check and he thought Achee may have needed more information.

 Phillips is six feet three inches tall and weighs two hundred fifteen pounds. Achee directed Phillips to leave the office. Phillips complied and Achee locked the door behind him.

 After the office incident, Achee and Phillips resumed the transaction at the teller's window. After writing down Phillips' driver's license number and getting his endorsement, Achee cashed the check. The police dispatcher called back during this transaction and was put through to Achee. To the question whether things had settled down, Achee said, no; to whether he could give a description, he said he could not; and to how many people were involved, he replied" safety deposit boxes are one dollar a month. "Rather than suggesting suspicious activity or a mere check forgery, this reply signaled police that one person was involved in a robbery.

 Achee also paid the check with money which set off a silent alarm, although he denied knowing this. After Achee paid Phillips, he left the building, with Achee following him out. During this entire time, Phillips did not ...


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