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Security Saves the Day
by Ron Davis
Quick intervention by a security guard at an Ohio shopping center likely prevented a tenant there from suffering the consequences of a serious employee blunder.
The shopping center is Summit Mall in Akron, and the tenant is Lady Foot Locker, a sports-apparel retailer that had to defend itself in court as a result of the employee’s actions. The employee, while assisting three female customers, thought one of the customers had stolen a shirt, followed them after they left the store, and demanded to search their shopping bags.
The women claimed he harassed them while walking alongside of them, then threatened to “jump on the hood of their car” if they tried to leave center property. The women also said that the employee’s demeanor and tone lead them to fear for their safety. That was especially true, they added, when he seized one of the women by the shoulder in an attempt to stop them and allow him to search their bags.
The shopping center’s security guard overheard the disturbance and quickly took control of the confrontation between the two parties. When he saw the employee put his hands on the shoulder of the woman, the guard admonished him for touching shopping center customers. He then introduced himself to the women, determined the cause of the dispute, and asked the women if the employee could search their bags.
After they agreed to the search, the guard motioned for the women to hand over their bags, which they did. The employee then searched through the bags, but did not find any stolen merchandise. Consequently, the guard advised the employee to apologize to the women. However, the women later sued Lady Foot Locker and the employee, claiming that the employee assaulted them, falsely imprisoned them, and invaded their privacy.
An Ohio jury decided that the employee did not invade the privacy of the women, and an Ohio judge dismissed the assault and false imprisonment charges. The women appealed.
An Ohio appellate court upheld the lower court findings, explaining, “There was substantial evidence to demonstrate that the employee did not invade the women’s privacy by walking closely to them in the mall and then looking through their bags.... We also find that the women failed to produce sufficient evidence of a willful threat or attempt to harm or touch the women offensively. In fact, the center’s security guard testified that during his presence on the scene, the women were not detained nor confined in any way.” (Brooks v. Lady Foot Locker, 2005 WL 1163018 [Ohio App. 9 Dist.])
Decision: May 2005
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