Can a customer sue the store even if they were never accused of shoplifting?

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Can a customer sue the store even if they were never accused of shoplifting?

Customer appeared to be taking item of rack and insert in her pocket. Notified cashier of customer doing so. Clerk asked her if she found the item she was looking for. Customer shouted “I steal nothing, I don’t steal!” No store employee accused her or detained or charged with stealing she said this on her own volition. Store apologized for any misunderstanding she spoke broken English. Store suspended me for incident. Customers family is threatening to sue but again never formally charged or detained and was never accused at all. Have full report if needed to better understand case

Asked on September 21, 2010 under Business Law, California

Answers:

S.J.H., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Anybody can sue for any reason in our society. However that does not mean she will be successful. The only cause of action she would be able to do is intentional infliction of emotional distress saying that the store purposely accused her falsely without basis and as a result of this she is suffering from long-term trauma. If you had a legitimate basis for suspecting her and then immediately rectified the situation when you realized that you were incorrect  then there should be no problem. Here it seems that she was never even interrogated  and that other than being embarassed at the store there is no other issue that could traumatize the customer. Thus, it appears that there is  little or no likelihood that the case would go anywhere. Most attorneys would not even bother.


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