Paula Plaintiff’s Really Bad Week Part 1
Paula Plaintiff is shopping at her favorite store, Cash Mart. She is looking for a new laptop, but she can’t find one she likes. Then, realizing that she is going to be late for an appointment, she attempts to leave the store, walking very fast. However, before she can leave, she is stopped by a security guard who accuses her of shoplifting. Paula, who has taken nothing, denies any wrong doing. The officer insists and takes Paula to a small room in the back of the store. The guard tells Paula that if she attempts to leave the room she will be arrested and sent to jail. At this point, the guard leaves the room. Paula is scared and waits in the room for over an hour until the manager comes in and apologizes and tells Paula that she is free to go.
About this same time, Geoffrey Golfer is hitting golf balls in his backyard. Geoffrey decides to break out his new driver and hits a golf ball out of his backyard into the Cash Mart parking lot. The golf ball hits Paula Plaintiff on the head and knocks her unconscious just as she is leaving the store.
In a 6–10 paragraph paper, answer the following questions:
- What types of legal claims could Paula make against Cash Mart and Geoffrey? Consider the following:
- What are the possible tort claims that Paula can make against Cash Mart? Discuss the elements of the claim and how those elements relate to the facts in the scenario.
- Was Geoffrey negligent when he hit the golf ball that injured Paula? Discuss the elements of negligence and use facts from the scenario to support your decision.
- If Paula files a negligence claim against Geoffrey will she file in civil court or criminal court? Explain the difference between civil court and criminal court.
Legal Claims Paula Could Make Against Cash Mart and Geoffrey
Possible tort claims that Paula can make against Cash Mart?
Paula can make two possible tort claims against Cash Mart. The first claim is false imprisonment. Hylton (2016) defines false imprisonment as an intentional act by the defendant that entails the plaintiff’s confinement without consent. For an event to qualify as false imprisonment, the plaintiff must have no known reasonable means to escape from a bounded area that they have been confined in by the defendant. The prima facie for a false imprisonment case include (1) the defendant willfully acts, (2) intention to confine the plaintiff without their consent or authority of law, (3) the defendant’s act causes the plaintiff confinement, and (4) the plaintiff is aware of his/her confinement. In this context, an act of restraint can be either the use of a physical barrier, such as locking someone in a room or the use of physical force to restrain an individual (Mulheron, 2016). It is worth noting that the facts presented in the scenario prove that Paula has a sufficient basis for making a false imprisonment claim against Cash Mart. However, Cash Mart can use the “shopkeeper’s privilege” as an affirmative defense. The shopkeeper’s privilege gives store owners legal authority to detain individuals who they believe have stolen or are attempting to steal from the defendant (Hylton, 2016) However, without probable cause and if it is evident that the plaintiff did not in the alleged misconduct, the shopkeeper’s privilege becomes inapplicable.
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Another tort claim that Paula can make against Cash Mart is that of intentional infliction of emotional distress. This tort occurs when the defendant acts outrageously with intent to cause the plaintiff to suffer severe emotional distress. The prima facie for an intentional infliction of emotional distress case include (1) the defendant acts, (2) the defendant conduct is abdominal, (3) the defendant act to cause the plaintiff emotional distress that could adversely affect their mental health, and (4) the defendant’s conduct causes the said distress (Mulheron, 2016). Comparing the facts presented in the case scenario, it is evident that Paula’s claim for infliction of emotional distress meets the identified prima facie. By falsely accusing Paula of shoplifting and threatening to arrest and send her to jail if she tries to leave the room, the guard inflicted emotional distress. Paula remains scared, waiting in the room for over an hour. The long wait must have caused her severe emotional distress considering that she was running late for an appointment.
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Was Geoffrey negligent when he hit the golf ball that injured Paula?
In tort law, a person acts negligently when his/her behavior departs from the conduct ordinarily expected for a reasonably prudent individual under the circumstances. Usually, the behavior consists of actions but can also entail omissions when there is some duty to act (Mulheron, 2016). According to Mulheron, primary factors to consider in determining whether a defendant’s conduct lacks reasonable care include (1) the foreseeable likelihood that their conduct will result in harm, (2) the foreseeable severity of any harm that may come, (3) the burden of precautions to reduce or eliminate the risk of harm. Relatedly, four elements are necessary to establish a prima facie case of negligence. Firstly, the existence of a legal duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff. Secondly, the defendant breached the said duty. Three, the plaintiff suffered an injury. Lastly, proof that the defendant’s conduct caused the injury (Best, Barnes, & Kahn-Fogel, 2018). The facts presented in the scenario show that Paula has a sufficient basis for a negligence claim against Geoffrey.
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When determining the existence of negligence, courts usually use the Hand Formula. The formula states that when the burden of taking precautions is less than the probability of injury multiplied by the gravity of any resulting injury, then the defendant will have some amount of liability (Best, Barnes, & Kahn-Fogel, 2018). From the facts presented in the scenario, it is rational to conclude that Paula’s injury due to Geoffrey’s disregard for taking precautions renders the defendant liable for negligence. Geoffrey had a duty to act reasonably but failed to do so, and the breach caused an injury. To put this into perspective, Geoffrey engaged in creating risk, which resulted in Paula’s harm. It is reasonable to assume that Geoffrey knew that the direction they were hitting their golf ball towards is a parking lot and, therefore, knowingly conducted in a manner that would harm the plaintiff. Best, Barnes, and Kahn-Fogel illuminate that to meet the injury element of the prima facie negligence case, the injury can be either bodily harm or harm to property. The scenario explains that Geoffrey decides to hit a golf ball out of his backyard into Cash Mart’s parking lot and, as a result, hits Paula on the head and knocks her unconscious. Therefore, Geoffrey was negligent when he hit the ball that injured Paula.
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If Paula files a negligence claim against Geoffrey, will she file in civil court or criminal court?
If Paula files a negligence claim against Geoffrey, she will file in civil court. Negligence is a civil action, which means that it is a lawsuit filed by a private person against another private person. If found liable, Geoffrey will be responsible for the harm alleged by Paula and the damages suffered. As such, he must pay the monetary damages the jury (or sometimes the judge) awards to Paula. By contrast, a criminal action filed in a criminal court refers to prosecution by the government against an individual for violating a provision of the criminal code. Therefore, the main difference between civil court and the criminal court is that the former deals with disputes between private parties while the latter deals with acts that violate the criminal code and other federal statutes (Mince-Didier, 2020).
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Another essential distinction between civil court and criminal court is the procedure. In civil court, the plaintiff sues the defendant. On the other hand, in a criminal court, the government brings formal charges against an individual or corporation. In a criminal court, the state is represented by a prosecutor. It is up to the prosecutor and not the victim to decide whether to bring the charges. The prosecutor must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Contrastingly, in a civil court, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, and the court decides the case based on a preponderance of evidence (Mince-Didier, 2020). The plaintiff must prove that it is more likely the defendant was responsible for the injury or harm than not. Moreover, civil court and criminal court differ in terms of legal penalties. In a criminal court, the judge sentences a defendant found guilty by the jury. Notably, the judge must follow the sentencing guidelines as established by current criminal law. Legal penalties in a criminal court include jail time, probation, and fines. On the other hand, in a civil case, a defendant found guilty can be ordered by the jury to pay damages to the plaintiff. The compensation can be awarded for subjective losses such as pain and suffering or quantifiable losses such as medical bills (Mince-Didier, 2020).
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