DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/20/96 TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN H. WHITFIELD COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
Before: Prather, C.j., Banks And McRAE, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Banks, Justice
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - TORTS (OTHER THAN PERSONAL INJURY AND PROPERTY DAMAGE)
DISPOSITION REVERSED AND REMANDED - 3/12/98
MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:
¶1. This appeal challenges the granting of a summary judgment for the appellee store whose employee stopped and detained the appellant customer after another employee had previously questioned the appellant about a shoplifting accusation and found it to be false. We conclude that the second stop and detention by the appellee's employee was not immune from liability under Miss. Code Ann. § 97-23-95 (1994). Thus, we reverse and remand this cause of action.
¶2. On August 04, 1994, the appellant Martha Turner (Turner) entered the appellee store Hudson Salvage, Inc. (Hudson Salvage) to look at various items for possible purchase, particularly shoes previously advertised on sale. Turner chose approximately seven or eight pairs of shoes and placed them in her shopping cart. She then spent about two hours browsing other areas of the store. Subsequently, she returned to the shoe department and decided to purchase five pairs of the previously selected shoes.
¶3. As she tried on various shoes, a customer informed Rodney Freightman (the security guard) that she saw Turner swap her old, worn shoes for a pair of Hudson Salvage's shoes and that Turner placed her old shoes on the shelf. Now suspicious of Turner, the security guard watched her, noting that she was trying on several pairs of shoes. The security guard testified at his deposition that he also believed he saw Turner swap shoes.
¶4. The security guard followed Turner to the checkout stand and bagged her purchases for her. As she walked out of the store, the security guard followed Turner to the parking lot, where he stopped her and asked if he could inspect the shoes she was wearing. In response to Turner's disbelief, the security guard explained that someone had accused Turner of swapping shoes. Turner acquiesced by taking off her shoes. Upon inspecting the shoes, the guard realized that the shoes were well-worn, with a wad of gum stuck on the left side of one of the shoes. Satisfied that the shoes did not belong to Hudson Salvage, the security guard apologized to Turner for the mistaken accusation and allowed her to leave.
¶5. As Turner walked toward her car, she heard a male voice yelling, "Ma'am, you need to come back into the store; you need to see the store manager." The voice belonged to an auditor for Hudson Salvage, Bobby Robertson (Robertson), who was in the office when he overheard the store manager and security guard discuss a possible shoplifting. Another Hudson Salvage employee who was in the office also, Wanda Murrell, pointed out Turner to Robertson as the customer who had shoplifted.
¶6. After overhearing the shoplifting allegation, Robertson remained in the office and continued to work. He did not personally observe Turner as she shopped, nor did he talk with the manager, security guard, or any other employee about the accusation. Robertson did, however, observe the security guard and Turner talking in the parking lot. He further observed that the security guard and Turner walked away from each other in a "normal" fashion after the conversation ended. Nevertheless, Robertson rushed out of the store, passing right by the security guard who had just questioned Turner, and "took it upon self" to demand that Turner return to the manager's office for questioning. Despite Turner informing Robertson that the security guard had already checked her shoes and determined that they were not stolen, Robertson still insisted that she return to talk with the manager.
¶7. Understandably frustrated, Turner returned to the store, escorted by Robertson and several security guards, including the security guard who initially checked her shoes. Once in the manager's office, Robertson looked at Turner's shoes and noted that they had "a piece of tape or something" on them and that they "looked wore" and "were not new." After making this observation, Robertson "walked right on back to the back and got a Coke." After a short delay, the store manager ...