The plaintiff and appellant of the case is Jacqueline E. Morris. The defendant and appellee in the case is Albertson’s Inc. The case is being heard in the eleventh circuit of the United States Court of Appeals.
A New York Criminal Lawyer said that on the sixteenth of October in 1980, around 5:15 pm, Thelma Powell, who was an employee of Albertson’s saw a young black lady opening the cellophane wrappers of cosmetics and placing the items in her purse (petit larceny). Powell continued to watch the woman throughout the store.
Around thirty minutes later at about 5:45 pm, Morris, another black woman came into the store. She went to the display of gospel albums and began to browse.
During this time, Powell went to her manager, Miles Durrant and told him about her observations of the young black woman that she thought to be stealing cosmetics. The two went to a section of the store to observe the woman so Powell could identify her to Durrant. They hid in an aisle and viewed the magazine aisle. Powell looked around the corner and told Durrant that the suspect was the black woman standing by a magazine rack. When he peered around the corner he was unaware that there was more than one black woman standing in the aisle. He only noticed Morris who was standing at the display of albums located near the magazine rack. The suspect had actually left the area.
Durrant took over the watch and kept surveillance over Morris as opposed to the real suspect. Morris bought some groceries and when she tried to leave, Durrant detained her and accused her of stealing. A Westchester County Criminal Lawyer said Morris was asked to come upstairs for questioning. Morris denied the charges, but agreed to go upstairs with him to avoid further embarrassment.
Durrant proceeded to call the police and then paged Powell to confirm that Morris was the suspect. Powell told Durrant that he had taken the wrong person. Durrant apologized to Morris and told her that she was free to leave. Morris refused to leave and called the police station to make sure they were coming. Morris also called her husband and they both discussed the case with the police. Morris then left the store.
Case Discussion and Ruling
Morris then brought a case for false arrest against Albertson’s. Albertson’s has denied liability in the case stating that it is immune from a suit based on the statute of Florida law 812.015. This particular statute protects merchants from suits pertaining to detentions when probable cause is at hand.
However, in this particular case there was no probable cause identified in the detainment of Morris. The only evidence was an eyewitness account given by Powell. However, she failed to tell Durrant that there were two black women in the aisle and did not give an accurate description of the suspect. In addition, Powell failed to stay with Durrant during this time and thus the wrong person was accused of the crime.
For these reasons, the court finds that there is a lack of probable cause for the detainment of Morris. We are reversing the previous order from the district court. We find in favor of the appellant, Morris, and move to remand this case to the district court for a ruling that will determine the amount in damages that the appellant shall receive for the wrongful detainment case.
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