Torts I, Pages 47–48

Hardy v. LaBelle's Distributing Co.

Supreme Court of Montana, 1983

Facts:

Defendant hired plaintiff as a temporary employee and assigned her to work as a sales clerk in the jewelry department. Another employee thought she saw plaintiff steal on of the watches defendant had in stock and reported plaintiff to the manager. The assistant manager approached plaintiff and told her that all new employees were given a tour of the store and took her to the manager's office before leaving himself.

Plaintiff was told she was accused of stealing the watch and agreed to take a lie detector test, which supported her statement that she did not take the watch. The manager and employee who thought she saw plaintiff take the watch apologized to plaintiff the next day. Plaintiff and this employee argued briefly before plaintiff left the store and sued.

Procedural History:

Jury found that plaintiff was not unlawfully restrained against her will.

Issue:

Whether plaintiff was unlawfully restrained against her will

Rule:

The two key elements of false imprisonment are the restraint of an individual against his will and the unlawfulness of such restraint. The individual may be restrained by acts or merely by words which he fears to disregard.

Reasoning:

While plaintiff felt compelled to stay in the room, she admitted that she wanted to stay and clarify the situation. She did not ask to leave and was not told that she could not. No threat of force or otherwise was made to compel her to stay.

Holding:

Yes, the evidence is sufficient to support the jury's verdict. Affirmed.

Note:

Moral persuasion does not constitute force or threat of force

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