Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Store Customer Loses False Arrest Claim

Deborah Elkins//October 28, 2011

Store Customer Loses False Arrest Claim

Deborah Elkins//October 28, 2011

A woman who would not leave a Ross Dress for Less store after she slipped and fell, who refused medical treatment by EMTs who arrived on the scene, and who called police to come and investigate her fall and allegedly would not leave until the store manager gave her $150 and a copy of the store’s video surveillance tape, loses her civil rights suit alleging false arrest in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in this case from Alexandria U.S. District Court.

The central factual issue is whether the officers could reasonably have believed plaintiff intentionally remained upon the Ross premises after she was forbidden to do so. The record demonstrates no genuine issue of material fact that the plaintiff, as the situation appeared at the time of the arrest, had remained on the Ross premises after she had been told to leave. As such, defendants reasonably believed the plaintiff had committed and indeed, was committing the crime of trespassing under Virginia law.

Plaintiff objects that she was not told to leave by the store manager or defendant Officer Green. She does not dispute, however, that defendant Officer Regan twice instructed her to leave and that she did not obey his instructions. Officer Regan’s instructions to plaintiff, based on his interactions with the store manager who had requested that plaintiff leave, were adequate to put plaintiff on notice that she was not authorized to remain on the premises. Having instructed plaintiff to leave, and having heard the store manager’s and the EMT’s explanation of the situation before their arrival, the officers had ample reason to believe that plaintiff’s continued presence on the premises was intentional, unauthorized and unlawful.

It is undisputed the store manager told defendant officers he wanted plaintiff to leave and he was willing to prosecute her or trespass if she failed to leave. It is likewise undisputed that the store manager and the firefighter/EMTs had provided defendants with consistent descriptions of the plaintiff’s conduct in the Ross store. Based on these facts, the officers could have reasonable concluded plaintiff was overstaying her welcome in bad faith.

Plaintiff claims she was justified in waiting at the front of the store because of her injuries from the slip and fall, and that she was arranging to see a Chinese doctor. She had declined medical treatment by the EMTs, and the store manager was not obliged to permit her to use store property as a staging ground for her non-emergency medical treatment. Her prior stubbornness justified an inference that her sudden inability to walk was a ploy calculated to further delay her departure.

Defendants had probable cause to believe plaintiff was violating and had violated Virginia law in their presence, and therefore were justified in making the arrest.

Zhang v. Regan (Buchanan) No. 1:10cv1329, Aug. 17, 2011; USDC at Alexandria, Va. VLW 011-3-475, 18 pp.

VLW 011-3-475

Verdicts & Settlements

See All Verdicts & Settlements

Opinion Digests

See All Digests