If I left my wallet next to store register and walked out after paying for a sandwich and there’s possibly a recording of an employee stealing it, do I have grounds for a lawsuit?

I realized when I got home that my wallet and cigarettes were missing. I went straight back to subway, which is literally 3 houses down, but the employee said my wallet wasn’t there. I returned the next morning to talk to the manager and have him to through the security recordings. He said he would call when he looked at the recordings hr had not yet.

Asked on June 2, 2014 under Criminal Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You could sue the employee for stealing your wallet (you could also press charges against him or her, since theft is a crime as well as grounds for a lawsuit), but would most likely not be able to sue the store. An employer is only liable, under the theory of respondeat superior ("let the master answer"), when the employee commits a wrong in the course of his/her employment, which does *not* just mean during work hours or while at work--it means a wrong that was part of his/her job responsibilities. It is not part of an employee's responsibilities to steal from customers; employers are very, very rarely held liable for the deliberate criminal acts of employees, since such acts are considered outside the scope of employment.

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