Is it legal for a security guard at a department store to physically manhandle a lady that has left the store with property that wasn’t paid for?

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Is it legal for a security guard at a department store to physically manhandle a lady that has left the store with property that wasn’t paid for?

The security guard is assuming the lady stole this property. There is no solid evidence that anything was stolen before the guard physically threw the lady to the ground, so can the guard legally do this?

Asked on May 17, 2014 under Personal Injury, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

It was very likely inappropriate (and possibly illegal; see below), but unless the woman was injured or suffered some significant loss or cost, there would effectively be no civil legal claim (e.g. a lawsuit) against the store or the guard. That's because a person can only recover compensataion for actual injuries or costs she suffered, and the amount of compensation is related to the extent of injuries or costs.

The woman may be able to press charges (e.g. for assault) against the guard: a store guard has no right to strike, throw, etc. someone except to in self-defense or to defend another person; if she is interested in doing this, she could contact the police.


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