What lawsuit could result from a business owner asking a customer for their receipt after being told that they were stealing by another customer?

UPDATED: Nov 14, 2010

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What lawsuit could result from a business owner asking a customer for their receipt after being told that they were stealing by another customer?

I work for security at a large theme park. There are smaller retail stores in it. I am told by my supervisors that if I receive a report by a customer that another customer is stealing, I cannot question in any way the suspect unless I actually saw the stealing with my own eyes and I did not lose sight of the suspect before approaching them. They tell me that if I even simply approach someone and ask to see a receipt, this can be considered “detaining” them and could “cause a lawsuit.” Is it true that the suspected thief would have a case against us and, if so, what would it be?

Asked on November 14, 2010 under Business Law, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

I think that that might be a stretch to be detaining a person.  I am assuming that what they would sue for is unlawful imprisonment.  The party suing would, generally speaking, have a feeling as if they were being detained and could not leave.  Asking for a receipt to check purchases seems a bit far of a reach for that. But listen, these are the rules of your job.  If they want to play them fast and loose then far be it from you to question them.  Just do as they want you to do and don't work about the ramifications.  You have no control over the outcome here unless you wotness the even as they say. Good luck.

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