Torts I, Pages 122–124

Bonkowski v. Arlan's Department Store

Court of Appeals of Michigan, 1968

Facts:

Plaintiff, accompanied by her husband, left defendant's store after making several purchases when Reinhardt, a private policeman on duty that night, told her to stop as she was walking to her car. Reinhardt had her return to the store and then said that someone told him that she had put three pieces of costume jewelry into her purse with having paid for them. Plaintiff denied this, but Reinhardt wanted to see the content of her purse. Plaintiff emptied it and produced sales slips for the items she had purchased. Reinhardt then let her go.

Procedural History:

The jury returned a verdict of $43,750 for plaintiff.

Issue:

Did defendant have a privilege to detain plaintiff to investigate whether she was stealing?

Judgment:

Reversed and remanded.

Reasoning:

The privilege is necessary for a shopkeeper to protect against shopkeeping. If it did not exist, he would have to allow the suspected shoplifter to leave or arrest him at the risk of liability for false arrest if the theft could not be proved.

Rule/Holding:

If a defendant reasonably believed the plaintiff had unlawfully taken goods for sale in defendant's store, then he has a privilege to detain plaintiff for a reasonable investigation of the facts once plaintiff has left the premises.

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